In her films, collages and projects, Fiona Rukschcio deals with the roles assigned to women, with identity construction, and with extreme emotional experiences. At the Secession
, she is showing her film retaped Rape (2012) and a series of photographs documenting the making of the film, as well as photo-collages and furniture. These new works take their cue and their structure from the film Rape made by Yoko Ono and John Lennon in 1969. Rukschcio re-filmed the work, in which the cameraman pursues a young woman through London back to her apartment, recreating the same shots at the original locations, but without the woman.
Rape (1969, 75 min.) is a conceptual film based on a script published by Yoko Ono in 1968: The cameraman will chase a girl on a street with a camera persistently until he corners her in an alley, and, if possible, until she is in a falling position. Shot in late November 1968 by Nic Knowland, Rape premiered on 31 March 1969 on Austrias public service broadcaster ORF, which had co-funded the project. The film is characterized by a violent, sexually charged atmosphere. Although the woman pursued by the camera appears flattered at first, she becomes increasingly anxious and deeply disturbed.
Rape is known as one of the works that brutally reveal the way the camera establishes its own powerful gaze, to which it subjects those filmed. This voyeuristic and exploitative (male) gaze, as described by Laura Mulvey in her essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema (1973), is exemplified by the films experimental structure. The camera focuses in on, pursues, and encircles the woman, communicating with her in various ways.
By re-filming the original scene for scene, but without the original object of technical observation, Rukschcio focuses attention directly on the cameras functioning and means of representation, especially its (then dominant) position of authority. In retaped Rape, the camera is thrown back on its own resources, following an invisible trace. This frees the viewer from the original perpetrator perspective, thus highlighting both the viewpoint of the victim and the duration of the aggression.
In her catalogue essay, Elisabeth Büttner writes: The event has shifted; no longer visible, it first has to be created. [
] The ideology of 1969 is being decomposed. Neither a visible object nor a concrete occasion are required in order to reveal the work of the camera as powerful, intrusive, ceaselessly forming and transforming reality. [
] The primary transactional relation is no longer between the camera and the desired, hunted object but between camera and camerawoman, camera and audience.
Fiona Rukschcios camera proceeds ruthlessly, writes Doris Krumpl in her catalogue essay: In many ways, her film retaped Rape resembles the original images by Yoko Ono and John Lennon, but it is anything but a rip-off, and the ugly face it reveals is far more cryptic than in 1969. Many things have now become totally normal, many others have retained their power to disturb. But the way people deal with these things has definitely changed, as retaped Rape shows. With this shift, Rukschcio opens up a series of questions concerning the connection between camera language, the gaze and, not least, violence. What changes, for example, when the person behind the camera is a woman, while the woman in front of the camera is missing?
In her works, the artist has often dealt with violence against women, developing strategies of empowerment such as showing alternative images beyond the rhetoric of the victim. Her film common.places (1999), for example, that won the Innovative Cinema Award at the Diagonale film festival in 2000, puts together 27 accounts by women about the perfectly normal everyday harassment that can be experienced by any woman in any situation. The utopian film Bill Posters will be prosecuted, also shot in London, is about an anonymous group of women (The Group) who are contracted to observe a rapist acquitted by the courts (Bill Posters) and if necessary to take revenge.
Specific places and ways of dealing with memories of marginalized history are also the subjects of her video I would be delighted to talk suffrage (GB 2005/03), which functions as a city guide, oral history document and collaged costume film all at the same time.
In retaped Rape, too, Rukschcio engages deeply with where things take place. She painstakingly researched the original locations, allowing her to film along the same route as the three-day shoot of the original chase: from Highgate Cemetery to various places in Chelsea, including the interior of the womans apartment (which now has a different layout). Speaking about the shoot in London, the artist says: The streets are busier today. But a camera is no longer viewed as an authority that must be accepted. People tried to make contact with me and with the camera.
With this difference between then and now that runs through the film, retaped Rape also raises questions of how the memory of contemporary history is recorded. As Rukschcio says, I often ask myself: How much history is inscribed in places? Firstly: which events and whose history? But also: what might an adequate alternative form of memory culture look like?