Asemie or the Inability Expressing Oneself through Facial Expressions

This work documents a ritualistic performance concerned with Ansemia, or the inability to either express or understand gesture. Using symbolic materials -- hot wax, a knife, a dead bird -- as well as text, Export investigates human expression, and how communication can fail.
"I had used my mouth to take the knife from the podium - holding it in my mouth, (the knife is language, the naming of things, its separates the subject from the object) using it to cut."


VALIE EXPORT intervenes.

VALIE EXPORT ties up a bird that can no longer fly.

She pours hot wax on the bird, and then on her own feet and hands.

She is crouched above the bird. Neither of them can move anymore.

Asemia is a medical condition – the loss of a gestural language, i.e. the gradual weakening of gestures to the point of losing all forms of body language. For a patient with asemia, movement is almost non-existent, and muteness and prostration are the two positions that the patient adopts.

VALIE EXPORT chooses an active and direct confrontation. She develops aesthetic conceptual strategies for perception and analyses the role of women and women artists in society. This performance takes on the appearance of a ritual based on a theme – the incapacity and inability to express oneself through gestures, or to understand them. VALIE EXPORT stages symbolic elements such as a dead bird, hot wax, and a knife. Expression is impossible. The artist then acts, literally, with a knife to cut herself free, distancing herself from this corporal muteness. The conceptual aesthetic of VALIE EXPORT explores the power and scope of reality: the same reality that produces different realities.

VALIE EXPORT intervenes in the realm of power. She affirms it from head to toe.

(Lou Svahn)

Orig. Title
Asemie – die Unfähigkeit, sich durch Mienenspiel ausdrücken zu können
7 min
Orig. Language
No Dialogue
Available Formats
Digital File (prores, h264) (Distribution Copy)
Blu-ray (Distribution Copy)
DCP 2K flat (Distribution Copy)
Frame Rate
25 fps