Valie Export

Date: 14 October 2004 | Season: Valie Export

14—20 October 2004
London National Film Theatre NFT2

Valie Export is a filmmaker, multi-media and performance artist whose challenging work, which fundamentally explores the intersection between the human body and the technological media, has pushed the boundaries of feminism and the avant-garde. As an artist not confined to the gallery, she also made experimental short films and complex feature-length narratives.

Her expanded cinema and performance pieces of the 1960s (often with the participation Peter Weibel, with whom she collaborated on her first two features) gained attention not only in the underground art scene, but also in national television and newspapers. In the wake of the Viennese Actionism movement, Export’s ‘Female Actionism’ was a radical protest that aimed to realign society’s attitude to women and redress the historical portrayal of the female body in art. In the performance, Tapp und Tast Kino (Touch Cinema), Export critiqued the voyeurism of cinema by appearing in the streets of Vienna wearing a box covered by curtains through which the public were invited to feel her naked chest.

Export initially took an extreme and provocative stance to resist the traditional modes of female representation and gain an independence of thought and expression. Sexually explicit and physically jarring, the early short films can be difficult viewing – in Mann & Frau & Animal she is seen masturbating and menstruating and in … Remote … Remote … she uses a knife to push back the cuticles of her fingertips until they bleed, before immersing them in milk. Not for the squeamish or puritanical viewer.

Having first exploded sexual and cultural taboos, Export focussed on the responsibility of the individual in the social environment. With the more conventional features she made in the 1970s and 80s, narrative filmmaking is used as a vehicle to explore ideas evident in her visual art within a more accessible format. Export integrates the language of commercial cinema with quotations from her videotapes, performances and photographic works, which often appear as discreet sections or in dialogue with the plot.

Working with the moving image, Export uses time and space to scrutinise the different layers between reality and the illusion of reality. Her analysis of corruption and the media reached an acute point in the mid-80s, when the plot of The Practice of Love was based on a contemporary arms dealing scandal that was played out in the Austrian press whilst the film was being made.

Export’s work is transgressive and political: an art intended to provoke social change. Concerned with identity, conscience and communication, it was central to the powerful feminist discourse that developed in the 1960s and 70s and is just as relevant today. This season at the NFT, and a major exhibition at Camden Arts Centre, is a vital opportunity to survey the work of one of the most original and influential figures of contemporary art. —Mark Webber

Valie Export NFT season curated by Mark Webber. With thanks to Ian White.

The Valie Export exhibition at Camden Arts Centre runs from 10 September—31 October 2004.