Valie Export

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*Images from the series Body Configurations

“When she changed her name in 1967 to VALIE EXPORT, the Austrian artist Waltraud Höllinger (née Lehner) renounced the names of her father and her former husband—tokens of patriarchal ownership—and transformed herself into a brand identity. Almost immediately after this break, EXPORT, then 27, began to develop a body of the most important experimental feminist art of the postwar period, exploring the nexus of relationships among politics, experience, and personal identity. Like her Actionist confreres who challenged the norms of an anxious and repressive Viennese society, EXPORT pushed her radicalism towards forms that were confrontational, aggressive, and, at times, shocking. In her iconic TOUCH CINEMA from 1968—“the first genuine women’s film,” as she put it—EXPORT stood on a street with a Styrofoam case over her bare chest inviting passersby to part the curtains with their bare hands and feel its contents: her breasts. The following year, Genital Panic took her into a Munich movie theater wearing a pair of pants with the crotch cut out. There, she presented the surprised audience not with the image of the female body they were expecting on screen but with real live flesh. Then, in Facing a Family (1971), EXPORT broadcast on Austrian national television five minutes of a family staring quietly into their TV set, mirroring the viewing audience at home by filming a family looking back at them.


While the feminist and sociological dimensions of such works are plain to see, EXPORT insists that they are also about exploring the frameworks of the media themselves. Staging an experience of film that was tactile rather than optical,TOUCH CINEMA set up a direct analogy between the movie screen and human skin, challenging the moviegoer to establish a relationship with the body based on proximity and intimacy rather than visual mastery and voyeurism. This interaction between the human figure and its media image motivates much of EXPORT’s art. In some works, likeTOUCH CINEMA, the media are humanized and given a bodily aspect, while in others, conversely, the body is forced to conform to alien formats. Her important series of photographs Body Configurations from the 1970s showed the artist contorting herself to accommodate a variety of environments, from urban architecture to natural landscape. She was becoming part of the architecture.” — By DEVIN FORE for the magazine Interview

**More about Valie Export here.

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