[to the article: VALIE EXPORT’s Films]
Timna Seligman, Exhibition curator
VALIE EXPORT  came into being in 1967, when the artist adopted the name of a brand of cigarettes and claimed it as her own. By reinventing herself as a commodity – labeled "Made in Austria" and described as "immer und überall" (always and everywhere) – she makes a powerful statement about the position of women in postwarAustrian society: they are everywhere but are seen as little more than common objects to be used and disposed of. Changing her name, thereby rejecting the patriarchal names bestowed by her father and husband and asserting her feminine independence and individuality, impacts all aspects of her life, and is an act of total art.
VALIE EXPORT was born in Linz, Austria, in 1940. Growing up in an Austria recovering from World War Two, she came of age in a society that was conservative, Catholic, and male-dominated. Much of VALIE EXPORT's art can be read within this context; she and many other artists of her generation who surfaced during the 1960s struggled against their history and society, reacting against its conservatism as they used art to make social, cultural, and political statements in hopes of changing the world around them. Centered on feminist issues, EXPORT's works diverge from those of her Vienna Aktionist contemporaries. She uses drawing, performance, street actions, photography, film, and sculptural objects – often in combination – to address perceptions of women and the female body in Austrian society. Her bold, pioneering approach to these issues, in a wide range of media, has made VALIE EXPORT a unique and influential artist.
The 1970s were an important period for feminist art throughout the world, as women artists protested gender inequality and focused on the objectification of the female body in Western culture. EXPORT's performance art and experimental films were instrumental in creating a new radical feminist art form and language, in which the female body was used as a tool of protest rather than as an object for the male gaze.
VALIE EXPORT: Jerusalem Premiere is the first exhibition in Israel devoted to EXPORT's works. Despite wide acclaim throughout the art world, her works have never reached large audiences here. This exhibition brings works from the early part of VALIE EXPORT's career to the Israeli arena, concentrating on the late-1960s to mid-1970s, when the diversity of art forms and the formation of her artistic language became defined. Their experimental, performance, and feminist aspects recall the art being made in Israel in the 1970s, particularly by such artists as Yocheved Weinfeld, Efrat Natan, and Motti Mizrachi.
The works in the exhibition fall under a number of categories: documentation of the early groundbreaking street actions through still photographs, video, and EXPORT’S “concept papers”; staged photography in relation to urban surroundings; conceptual photography; and series of drawings that reveal a radically different aspect of her oeuvre. In conjunction with the exhibition, a number of her feature and experimental films will be screened as part of the Jerusalem Film Festival.
VALIE EXPORT's street actions such as Tap and Touch Cinema (1968) and Genital Panic: Action Pants (1973) were designed to initiate confrontations with passersby. She targeted the film industry – especially pornographic films and cinemas – to emphasize its objectification of the female body. In Genital Panic: Action Pants, which today exists only in posters and photographs, she entered cinemas screening pornographic films with tousled hair, brandishing a large gun, and wearing a leather jacket and crotchless jeans, thus exposing herself to the male film audience. Promenading up and down the aisles, EXPORT confronted the men and forced their gazes away from the screen to center on her – a real live flesh and blood woman, versus an intangible celluloid image. Works such as Body Sign Action (1970), in which EXPORT designed a tattoo in the form of a garter belt and stocking and then had it tattooed on her leg, is another example of the way in which she lives her art in a total manner. The 1970 act is a comment on ritual and cultural norms: by tattooing the garter belt onto her thigh, she permanently marks herself with a comment on constructs of female sexuality and the way men relate to women's bodies.
The video works in the exhibition fall into two groups. The first of these employs the documentation of actions, such as Hyperbulia (1973), in which EXPORT examines and challenges the boundaries of the body as she weaves, naked, through a maze of charged wires connected to electric batteries. The second group involves videos and experimental films: in Seeing Space and Hearing Space (1973–74), for example, the artist explores the visual and aural ways we observe space, while …Remote…Remote… (1973) is a combined performance and video work that confronts EXPORT’s Austrian past and the horrors of World War Two, including the Holocaust. Against a backdrop of an old black-and-white photograph of a young girl in striped pajamas, she picks at her fingers with a knife until blood spills into a bowl of milk on her lap. EXPORT explains: "… the dictates of fear and guilt, the inability to overcome, deformations that tear open the skin, and revelations exercise an ongoing effect. I demonstrate something that represents the past and the present." 
In 1972, EXPORT began working on a large series of staged photographs, in which she places herself in the context of architectural elements in the urban setting of Vienna. Calling the series "Body Configurations" or "Visible Externalizations of Inner States by Configuring the Body with its Environment, Architecture and Nature," she positioned herself in relation to architectural elements: walls, cornices, street curbs, and steps. This series continues her examination of the female body within the context of Austrian society, but here she juxtaposes it against classic, imperial, and national architecture, contorting
her soft, curved, female body to conform to the sharp corners of the patriarchal history of Imperial Austria.
EXPORT’s self-categorized “conceptual photography” works are experimental compositions dealing with issues related to space and time, and the experience of the artist in the process of art making. Many photographs from these series combine different points of view of one object, or collages of photographs within photographs, such as Movement Trace (1973) or Ontological Leap (1974), which combines color with black-and-white photography to portray a handextending through the image plane to grasp a black-and-white photographed version of itself.
Unlike the very confrontational, brutal, and violent images in many of the documentary photographs and videos, VALIE EXPORT's drawings are rendered with a noticeably delicate and gentle hand even if the images continue to deal with pain, horror, and discomfort. Works such as The Dreams of the Child (1971) show a disturbed and nightmarish view of family life from a child’s perspective, while Liebe-Angst (Love-Anxiety) (1973) succinctly renders – in word and image – the inner conflict of the artist's existential psyche.
1. The artist’s name is always portrayed in capital letters, in order to highlight the total aspect of her work. In 1970, VALIE EXPORT redesigned the cigarette pack from which she took her name, appropriating the commercial product to launch her own self-constructed identity.
2. Hedwig Saxenhuber. VALIE EXPORT (Vienna: Folio Verlag, 2007), p. 220.
[to the article: VALIE EXPORT’s Films]