Remote, Remote (1972)

The short film Remote, Remote by Valie Export opens up with a photograph of two infants standing up in a cot and holding each others hand. Their mouths are open and eyes are pleading. The photograph is then blown up poster size, which accentuates the graininess of the picture. Then appears several quick shots between the eyes of a sandy-haired woman, who is sitting on a chair near the photograph and the eyes of the smaller child in the photo. The woman holds in her hand a work knife and a bowl of milk is situated between her knees. We notice that her hands are worn and her nails are ragged from biting. She then takes the work knife and starts cutting away at her cuticles. During this process, we hear several sounds: the beating of a spoon against a pan, and the sound of a something hard, perhaps a zipper or button, panging against the wall of a spinning dryer. The woman continues to mutilate her hand, eventually cutting away the cuticle and digging into her fingers. The last shot is of her dipping her bloody mutilated hands into the bowl of milk.

After becoming somewhat familiar with Export's views on the female image, I believe that showing the male audience female pain, one of the things Export was trying to accomplish. Joanna Keirnan comments in her critical article on Export "I feel that Valie Export forces me, watching this film, into the male position of watching pain; alienating, repulsing , and terrorizing me with it. But she also forces me to acknowledge men's fear of rupture--and my fear of their fear. As well as childbirth, there is menstruation, and while this is something completely familiar to a woman, it remains taboo in the culture and hidden from the sight". (Kiernan, 182). In this film, the woman's hidden pain is identified up front with the cutting of her hands.

A female's image is very much connected to her identity, especially by society. Like many of Export's performance pieces, she is again freeing her body from society, by having the woman cut away at her own hands. A woman's hands are stereotypically associated with well-groomed polished nails, and fragile feminine fingers. Export makes the audience uncomfortable, in same ways she did in her performance piece Erosion , where she rolled her naked body over broken glass. In Erosion she is separating the female body from eroticism. In Remote, Remote , she is separating the female image from frailty, weakness, and neat appearances, again accentuating the pain women often have to hide from society.

In the beginning of the film, we also see a connection between the small pleading child in the photo and the woman. We come to believe that the woman is the child because of the quick shots between the woman and child. The small child is grasping the hand of the older child. By cutting away at her fingers, the woman might be "cutting her grasp" to the older child, who may represent an older male sibling. If the older child,in fact does represent a male this could also symbolize the "cutting away" from women's traditional gender roles. This is accentuated by the beating sounds of the clothes dryer and pan.

The short film Remote, Remote displays Export's views on women in society. She uncovers the socially hidden suffering and pain women experience in life. Through her shocking imagery and semiotic use of the body, she attempts to free the woman's image (and the woman herself) from the confides of society and men.

Valie Export Work