VALIE EXPORT (born May 17 1940 in Linz as Waltraud Lehner) is an Austrian artist. Her artistic work includes video installations, body performances, expanded cinema, computer animations, photography, sculptures and publications covering contemporary arts.
Biography Educated in a convent until the age of 14, EXPORT had artistic training at the at the School of Art and Crafts in Linz, and studied painting, drawing, and design at the National School for Textile Industry in Vienna, and briefly worked in the film industry as a script girl, editor, and extra. She married and had two children, but later divorced her husband and returned to art school. In 1967, she changed her name to VALIE EXPORT—written in uppercase letters, like an artistic logo—shedding her father’s and husband’s names and appropriating her new surname from a popular brand of cigarettes. With this gesture of self-determination, EXPORT emphatically asserted her identity within the Viennese art scene, which was then dominated by the taboo-breaking performance art of Viennese actionists such as Hermann Nitsch, Günter Brus, Otto Mühl, and Rudolf Schwarzkogler. Like her male contemporaries, she subjected her body to pain and danger in actions designed to confront the growing complacency and conformism of postwar Austrian culture. But her examination of the ways in which the power relations inherent in media representations inscribe women’s bodies and consciousness distinguishes EXPORT’s project as unequivocally feminist.
EXPORT’s early guerilla performances have attained an iconic status in feminist art history. Tapp- und Tast-Kino ('Tap and Touch Cinema') was performed in ten European cities in 1968-1971. In this avowedly revolutionary work, EXPORT wore a tiny 'movie theater' around her naked upper body, so that her body could not be seen but could be touched by anyone reaching through the curtained front of the 'theater.' She then went into the street and invited men, women, and children to come and touch her.
In her 1969 performance Aktionshose:Genitalpanik (Action Pants: Genital Panic), EXPORT entered a porn cinema in Munich with her hair in disarray, wearing crotchless pants, and carrying a machine gun. Striding up and down the rows of theatregoers, she brandished the weapon and challenged the male audience to engage with a 'real woman' instead of with an images on a screen. Through these acts of artistic daring, EXPORT challenged the objectification of the female form by confronting voyeurs with a body that returned the gaze.
The contrast with what is usually called 'cinema' is obvious, and is crucial to the message. In EXPORT's performance, the female body is not packaged and sold by male directors and producers, but is controlled and offered freely by the woman herself, in defiance of social rules and state precepts. Also, the ordinary state-approved cinema is an essentially voyeuristic experience, whereas in EXPORT's performance, the 'audience' not only has a very direct, tactile contact with another person, but does so in the full view of EXPORT and bystanders.
EXPORT's groundbreaking video piece, 'Facing a Family' (1971) was one of the first instances of television intervention and broadcasting video art. The video, broadcast on the Austrian television program 'Kontakte', shows a bourgeois Austrian family watching TV while eating dinner. When other middle class families watched this program on TV, the television would be holding a mirror up to their experience and complicating the relationship between subject, spectator, and television.
Since 1995/1996 EXPORT has held a professorship for multimedia performance at the Academy of Media Arts|Kunsthochschule für Medien in Cologne, Germany.
Awards *Oskar Kokoschka-Award, 2000