Visual Text : Finger Poem, 1968 - 1973

Betacam numérique PAL, noir et blanc, silencieux

Finger Poem is a short video. It presents VALIE EXPORT, facing the camera, who declaims a poem without words or lip movement. VALIE EXPORT expresses herself through demonstration and operates an analogy between physical action and the performative act of speech. Non-verbal communication factors prevail (along with silences or facial expressions). At the end of the video, a text appears in German, a free adaptation of a statement by philosopher Martin Heidegger: “Ich sage die Zeige mit den Zeichen im Zeigen der Sage” (“I say the showing with the signs by signing the legend”). Here, spoken language is not audible but instead it calls on the sensorial register by means of a system of symbols to be deciphered, like a code made up of images. The visual text that VALIE EXPORT establishes confronts what is heard and thwarts the immediate comprehension that is culturally associated with hearing and seeing.  

The body is treated like a medium in its own right, one among others, and it is conceived of like any number of signs and coded systems of social and artistic expression. The artist's body as a medium and the videographic medium become the means of expression of a language that disorientates the all-powerfulness of orality and inverses the hierarchy of the sensorial system. Body language here becomes an inter-subjective experience – in the sense that Hans-Georg Gadamer understands it, that is, the creation of a shared temporary language that allows the Self and the Other to look at an object external to both. Here, it is a self-reflexive address that makes the body visible both as an inter-subjective and active means of communication.


Lou Svahn