Barbis Ruder

Exhibition view. Photo: WEST. Fotostudio

The body is the starting point and subject of investigation in the artistic works of media and performance artist Barbis Ruder, who lives in Vienna. She combines it with themes such as the economy, work, intimacy and convention in complex compositions which are manifest in moving images as well as in sound, sculptures and spatial installations. In this way Barbis Ruder creates works that are realized in the exhibition context, in public space, and on stage.

Often, it is her own body that she stages, as for example in her performance DOWN DOG IN LIMBO, 2015, for which she clamped her body, with additional leg braces, into a metal frame. In the case of the performative work Value Creation Chain: 2F – Attack 2016 the body was also central – together with others, the artist threw herself against the glass doors of cultural institutions.

Currently, in the context of the doctoral study program “Artistic Research” at the University of Applied Art, supervised by Peter Weibel, she is developing sculptures in the field of tension between medical and body technologies. In 2014 she received the acclaimed H13 Performance Award from Kunstraum Lower Austria and she was nominated for the Kardinal König Prize in 2017.

Barbis Ruder frequently permits criticism of the art market and art business to flow into her works, as the performative spatial installation #ScreenTime in the Neue Galerie demonstrates. But this time she has “turned the tables”, as Nina Schedlmayer notes in her blog[1]. Within the gallery setting the artist offers space for presentation to other galleries. Artists also have the opportunity to introduce their work and book screen time during the exhibition’s running time. In addition, logo placements are offered on the wall of sponsors behind the gallery desk as well as in the back room. The figure created by Barbis Ruder, “INFLUENCA”, is staged as a poster girl. INFLUENCA made her first appearance at her own birth ritual in Vienna on 1st March. In an oversized costume with a grey wig, platform shoes and an unforgettable laugh, as a retro virus she has been holding up a humorous mirror to the hype around influencers at her Happynings: #SuperSocial, #SuperSick.

“Influencers are the people who enjoy a notable breadth of impact and assumed influence on their many followers in the social media. In numbers, many followers are from 10,000 to 1,000,000 and more.” [2] Meanwhile, advertising has also discovered influencers for its own benefit. Influencer marketing will continue to grow in significance in the coming months and probably develop into one of the biggest marketing phenomena in the digital world, or so we read in the marketing blog InfluPedia.[3] Here, the Internet functions as a limitless projection surface, whereby it is often only a matter of product placement and sales. In these staged realities, everyone is always in a good mood, always happy, the snapshots consist of highlights only.

More and more, female influencers are becoming the patterns for today and role models for teenies.

In INFLUENCA Barbis Ruder has created a new, much exaggerated role model. Her Facebook account has been blocked in the meantime, but in performances and as @realinfluenca on Instagram she practises criticism of the image of women and the body, but also of the economy as a viral social sickness, as the horror show of capitalism.

Do artists need to keep up with this in order to survive? Marketing seems to be a no-go as ever for artists, for surely self-realization comes first and foremost. The first recently published study on artists’ social position[4] shows up once more the contradiction between self-realization and turbo-capitalism.

INFLUENCA shows a progressive method of self-marketing, using crowdfunding and influencer-marketing quite naturally for oneself. At the 2018 Donaufestival in Vienna everyone could buy into her performance #likemetoo: either a tweet was flashed onto the video wall or an advertising spot, but a meet & greet on stage, into which it was possible to integrate one’s own message, was also made available for booking.

In the Neue Galerie Barbis Ruder is also showing a video-tripytch, in which she herself appears as a social media star, cackling with laughter. She grates on our nerves, and the 66 Hz attack of laughter gets under our skin. The following text can be heard at the same time: “This is INFLUENCA / Now she is on Instagram / She is a product / Her actions are for sale / Her words are for sale / Her body is for sale / She  was created to be sold.” Ultimately, that is the essential aspect of an influencer-existence: sell, sell, sell![5] And so besides broadcasting time and logo placement in the Neue Galerie it is also possible to acquire other merchandizing products like #Online Tears, tears that she cried at her birth, T-shirts #MySelfie, #CheapShirts and #EDVHeilungen/#ITHealings. In the context of the opening there is also the performance #MySelfieTime with INFLUENCA:

Barbis Ruder expands on and crosses over the boundaries of artistic genres, confronting her viewers with the interdependencies between artist and the public. Is the figure of INFLUENCA the answer to the contradictory nature of self-realization and turbo-capitalism in an artist’s life? We look forward to finding out how the brand and the company INFLUENCA continues to develop. Dr. Dr. Ruder will be presenting the business version – from #InfluencaMarketing to the #InfluencaFoundation – at brut Wien in April 2019.



Cornelia Reinisch-Hofmann



[1] Nina Schedlmayer, Barbis Influenca, https://artemisia.blog/2018/11/26/barbis-influenca/, accessed on: 03.12.2018

[2] Anika Meier, Anika Meier on influencers in social media, https://www.monopol-magazin.de/influencer, accessed:08.11.2018

[3] Katharina Wieser, Trends, Hypes and Hopes – Influencer Marketing 2018, quo vadis? https://imbstudent.donau-uni.ac.at/influencer-marketing/, 11.08.2018, accessed on 03.12.2018

[4] https://kulturrat.at/agenda/sozialerechte/20181123, accessed on 05.12.2018

[5] Cf. Nina Schedlmayer, Barbis Influenca, https://artemisia.blog/2018/11/26/barbis-influenca/, accessed on : 03.12.2018




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