[to the article: VALIE EXPORT]
VALIE EXPORT’s Films
Avi Feldman, Associate Curator of Avant-Garde Film
Jerusalem Film Festival
From the beginning of her artistic career, VALIE EXPORT’s film and video works have comprised an integral part of her creative oeuvre. In her work, the use of cinematic imagery is integrated with a feminist inquiry into the representation of woman and her place in society. Her treatment of the body, expressed through her performance art, is also reflected in her film and video work, shedding new light on her performances, as well as creating reciprocity and a mutual examination between her various means of expression.
Tapp und Tastkino (Tap and Touch Cinema) (1968), one of her pivotal early works, articulates the connection between performance art and cinema and the status of woman and the image of the feminine. In this work, VALIE EXPORT covered her breasts with a box and wandered the city streets. The box served as a movie theater, while passersby – viewers – were invited to insert their hands through an opening on the front of the box and to grope her breasts for a limited time, using her body as a screen to be felt rather than watched. In 2003, EXPORT described this work as “a street film, a mobile film and the first real women's film.” However, in this film, the artist made a distinction between the body of woman and the eroticization of the image of woman – in society in general and in cinema in particular.
In order to examine humanity and society she, like many other female performance artists, made use of the instrument most immediately available to her – her body. Dissatisfied with this limitation, however, EXPORT turned also to filmmaking, which even in our time is still considered a male discipline. Unlike her contemporaries, most of whom were participants in Viennese Actionism, she immersed herself in film and video. VALIE EXPORT’s creative and experimental forays in this multimedia discipline, begun in the 1960s, eventually led to works attributed to Expanded Cinema. An independent and alternative filmmaking movement, Expanded Cinema aimed to expound on the relation between cinema and daily life and called for the creation of new cinematic lines of communication and expression that would challenge the dominant paradigm.
In her feature films, the feminine-feminist point of view prevails. The first of these, Invisible Adversaries (1976), was funded by the Austrian Ministry of Art and Education, but shocked the establishment with its sharp criticism of Austrian society and its use of sexual imagery. 1984 saw the release of EXPORT’s third full-length film, The Practice of Love, which was nominated for the Golden Bear in the Berlin International Film Festival. The female protagonist in this anti-romance is simultaneously involved in relationships with two different men; both relationships fail due to the existing social order. Borrowing from experimental filmmaking, video, and photography, the artist breaks down and reconstructs the plot, portraying a world ruled by masculine power and might that does not permit the existence of any kind of love beyond that which is sexual. This feminist reading of reality reverberates from each of VALIE EXPORT’s creations.
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