Close Up

30 October 2016: Performance Films II

The Body and Its Image in the Media was art historian Annette Tietenberg’s title for a lecture about VALIE EXPORT which summed up the variety and influence of views of the body and the way it is represented. Even in her early films EXPORT presented herself as a female object of a wide range of codes and meanings based on social norms and constructs, though at the same time always as a sensuous subject that repeatedly ‘considered appropriate language for what she wanted to express.’” – Brigitta Burger-Utzer

The programme will be introduced by artist Mira Loew.

1968 | 2 min | B/W | Beta SP

Tapp und Tastkino: touch cinema. The performance is legendary. The box invites the use of touch. But this use is conditional. The touch is blind: it prohibits seeing. This dissociation of eye and touch ruins all eroticism for the undertaking. The woman lavishes her body. But the man only clutches the surface: the epidermis. And not even: he does not really know what his fingers are straying over. Pandora’s box is more than a peep show. (...) Peter Weibel in person plays the Jack-of-all-trades. You see him, in the film of the performance, playing the street entertainer by being on the game with a megaphone. The woman acts with her body, the man with his voice. This is what is literally called – since (at least) Derrida – phallogocentrism... – Régis Michel

Body Tape
1970 | 4 min | B/W | Beta SP

1: Touching
2: Boxing
3: Feeling
4: Hearing
5: Tasting
6: Pushing
7: Walking

VALIE EXPORT adopts a position characterised by shifts or discrepancies. Each conceptual gesture is introduced by inter-titles that indicate the verb she is about to illustrate – a didactic technique that brings to mind educational films. The artist gives instructions facing the camera, and a transparent glass screen is used as an intermediary projection surface that marks the separation between her body and the camera. The association of language with action (both the body and the medium) simultaneously separates the spatial structure of the performance from its perception. As literal as the actions may seem – licking the transparent surface to illustrate the verb to lick, sticking her ear against it to convey to listen, touching the glass screen with her hands, palms towards to the camera, for the verb to touch – above all, the real point of contact is in how the viewer receives the image. Body Tape presents VALIE EXPORT´s conceptual experiments with time and space, and her exploration of language through video. She simply presents, without ever demonstrating things, thereby creating her own media and her own territories.” – Lou Svahn
Breath Text: Love Poem
1970-73 | 2 min | B/W | Beta SP

Breath Text is a powerfully simple performance in which VALIE EXPORT creates tension by breathing compulsively.

“she breathes heavily at the video camera lens while slowly moving her face across it, fogging up the entire space with her lung’s volume. Her piece takes Olson’s breathy poem ‘Gli Amanti’ a step further, not just aiming to capture the particularities of one’s pronunciation in an individual speech act but substituting the specific make her body creates – her ‘breath text,’ the moist gasp on the window glass in front of her – for the signs one would use to write an actual, linguistic ‘love poem.’” – Lisa Siraganian
Visual Text: Finger Poem
1973 | 2 min | B/W | Beta SP

"The body as carrier of information, in order to convey both spiritual and physical contents, is the reflected image of the internal/psychological and of the external/institutional reality." – VALIE EXPORT

“By means of symbolic gestures, a sentence is delivered in sign language, whose wording may only be understood at the end of the performance when the camera pans over a line written on a piece of paper. This is how Sehtext: Fingergedicht defies our concepts of immediate listening and comprehension associated with both hearing and sight. If a literally physical ‘becoming action’ of the verbal is performed, through a language of gestures – in showing by speaking and saying by showing – we can thus identify a dismantling of the hierarchy of the sensory system.” – Sabeth Buchmann
1973 | 7 min | B/W | DigiBeta

“The narrow passage or dangerous passage is a common motif in both funerary and initiation mythologies. I step inside and move through a corridor of electrically charged wires, constantly experiencing painful shocks and sinking to the floor. But I accept the challenge and, in a somewhat pathological increase in willpower, I press my head against the wires again and again. Society is a closed, structured space, which regulates all human energy through painful barriers. Only through an effort of will to overcome the pain (which is at the core of society) is one able to achieve a state of free expression.” – VALIE EXPORT

The Duality of Nature
1986 | 2 min | Colour | Beta SP

The Duality of Nature is an experimental video that deals with the 'duality of nature', in other words natural nature and technical nature. Nature is always a construction, whether in dynamic processes, dis-analog systems or physical, technical signals. 'Nature' formulates the organizational forms of representational strategies - symbolic structures, both in reality and in fiction. Where are the borders, the interfaces, the de-bordering and the analogies for ‘natural’ nature and ‘technical’ nature? These considerations provided the basis for the video.” – VALIE EXPORT

Elfriede Jelinek. News from Home 18.8.88
1988 | 30 min | Colour | Beta SP

“Writer Elfriede Jelinek has repeatedly made statements about her television-watching habits. She watches a great deal, a wide variety of what is broadcast, though rarely for pleasure or the purpose of gaining knowledge. On the contrary, the TV program is one of her favorite objects of study. Three separate times on a particular day, while sitting in a comfy TV chair, she commented on Austrian TV news for VALIE EXPORT.” – Brigitta Burger-Utzer

1997 | 3 min | B/W & Colour | VHS

“A medical camera films the vaginal area of performer VALIE EXPORT. It penetrates her body. In the same way as in various installations that investigate the origin of the voice through filming of the glottis, the vagina´s interior is made visible here for the purpose of demonstrating what happens inside the body.” – Brigitta Burger-Utzer

Mann & Frau & Animal
1970-73 | 8 min | B/W & Colour | 16mm

“Instead of the holy trinity: father, son, holy spirit, instead of the profane trinity: mother, family, state, instead of the social trinity: father, mother, children the film treats the real trilogy in 3 sections. What unites man and woman (not uniquely for sure, but what is being concealed) is the history of nature.” – VALIE EXPORT

“The earlier films of VALIE EXPORT, one feels, were motivated by the author´s desire and needs to investigate her own subjectivity, with the audience as a necessary part of the transference and polemic. Man & Woman & Animal shows a woman finding pleasure in herself, the whole film a kind of assertion and affirmation of female sexuality and its independence from male values and pleasures. Thinking about my 'quite erotic' tag of that film I realize that as a viewer I am experiencing a sexuality like that of childhood - one motivated by curiosity, a prosaic pleasure in looking, but free from fantasy. It is quite unlike the experience of ordinary pornography which is invested with the erotic almost exclusively through its symbolization of power.” – Joanna Kiernan

Mira Loew is a London based artist whose work predominantly explores the human body, focusing on the correlations between performance and the photographic medium. Working with her own body as well as performers and dancers, she is particularly concerned with the experience of inhabiting and experiencing the world through the female body.

Part of our season on VALIE EXPORT