Tribute 2020: VALIE EXPORT
As part of „EXTRACTS: Tribute VALIE EXPORT @ Ars Electronica“ all titles of this section from the program of the canceled festival edition have been screened within the Ars Electronica from 10 – 13 September, 2020. Details HERE.
Essay: Feminism and Media AvantGarde.
| Brigitta Burger-Utzer, film agent and film curator (sixpackfilm)|
There is no doubt that VALIE EXPORT is one of Austria’s most versatile and internationally renowned artists, whose impact and influence continue to persist. The reason being that her oeuvre is marked by the development of a radical actionist feminism on the one hand and by an avant-garde approach towards new media technology on the other. In her choice of artistic materials, in particular the (own) body, she is in line with Marina Abramovic, Carolee Schneemann or Joan Jonas, yet she may be unique as regards her versatility of artistic expression.
Her unwavering interest in cultural representations of the female body is articulated in a multimedia practice and theory that includes installations, conceptual photography, drawings, sculptures, texts, performances, films, and videos. Central to her oeuvre is the moving image, in the form of original cinematic works or incorporated into installations. Within the realm of film and video art, she captivates with a range of modes all of which are featured in this Tribute program. VALIE EXPORT’s three feature films bring together ideas and art objects for a narrative cinema that she had already put to the test in her artistic practice: “The narrative facilitates the conveying of subjects and content.” 
In Invisible Adversaries (1976), photographer Anna doubts the reality of her experiences. She can no longer assess if the cause is her altered perception or the change of the people and of the objective world around her. Sometimes this destabilized woman is described as schizophrenic, but perhaps she may also be seeking her very own identity.
EXPORT addresses in many of her works that this quest is doomed to failure or successful only with a sacrifice: “because man has defined the image of woman for both man and woman, men create and control the social and communication media such as science and art, word and image, fashion and architecture, social transportation and division of labor, (…) if reality is a social construction and men its engineers, we are dealing with a male reality.” 
The Practice of Love (1984) also sees a woman trying and failing to establish herself in a male working world. This thriller about a socially critical journalist who uncovers corruption in business and politics also illustrates a fundamental discrepancy: the combination of female sexuality and heterosexual eroticism (the main character has two lovers) with an intellectual mind leads to energy-consuming conflicts and bitter disappointment.
EXPORT quite intentionally uses a lot of clichés in Human Females (1979) to portray the relationships of four women with each other and with one man. From a web of relations that satisfies no one grows utopian freedom for some and the abyss for the others. One way or the other, the protagonists in EXPORT’s feature films are never ordinary heroines but complex female characters with demons, expectations, and suffering.
In the relatively short period that saw Expanded Cinema being pushed forward in its deconstruction of the cinematic dispositif in Austria and in numerous presentations by the artists at home and abroad, VALIE EXPORT (frequently together with Peter Weibel) was front and center. Many of her performances were not recorded and today only exist as concepts with theoretical backgrounds or photographs. On Adjunct Dislocations (1973), VALIE EXPORT wrote: “not only is something shown, showing itself is shown, not only is something portrayed, portrayal itself is portrayed. a sense of space is created in a way possible only with film: seeing oneself from the front and back simultaneously, from above and below, and from outside in the center of the space.”  The first performance of the TAPP und TASTKINO was in Vienna in 1968, after that in many locations in Germany and the Netherlands. The only remaining recording is from an action in Munich in 1969 that was done especially for the TV program “Apropos Film”: Peter Weibel is on the megaphone, inviting people to visit the box/cinema installed over EXPORT’s breasts and giving political speeches.
VALIE EXPORT’s criticism of representation which is feminist in nature had to lead to an enhancement of Expanded Cinema, to the use of the/her body as artistic material in body actions, later called performances. In Man & Woman & Animal she gives a performance made especially for film: first she soberly demonstrates the hedonistic ritual of masturbation, then, under the grotesque sounds of male grunting, she turns the attention to the sperm and blood covered vagina. This raises the question whether, contrary to popular claims, the animal unites man and woman instead of separating them.
The media-reflexive performances by VALIE EXPORT, such as Visual Text: Finger Poem (1968/73), Breath Text: Love Poem (1970/73), and Body Tape (1970), and later on the voice as performance, act and body (2007) are examples of her decadeslong examination of language as a form of communication and of the subject’s voice as part of an identity that is hard to constitute.
At the end of the 1960s, Austrian television opened itself up for contemporary art with programs like “Impulse” and, later, “Kunststücke”, where many media artists presented or for which they even designed works of their own. VALIE EXPORT was on board from the start, creating not only socially and media critical works but also educational programs on experimental film and action art plus four documentaries. Das bewaffnete Auge. VALIE EXPORT im Dialog mit der Filmavantgarde (1984) is a three-part overview of the major movements from the 1920s up until performance works by Yvonne Rainer, a sister artist in spirit.
 In der Erweiterung liegt die Möglichkeit zur Veränderung. Gespräch mit VALIE EXPORT. Von Brigitta Burger-Utzer und Sylvia Szely [Expansion holds the possibility of change. Conversation with VALIE EXPORT. By Brigitta Burger-Utzer and Sylvia Szely]. In “EXPORT LEXIKON. Chronologie der bewegten Bilder bei VALIE EXPORT”, ed. by Sylvia Szely (Vienna, Sonderzahl 2007).
 VALIE EXPORT. Woman’s Art. A Manifesto, in “Neues Forum”, 1972, trans. Resina Haslinger, in which only women participated.
 VALIE EXPORT: Adjungierte Dislokationen, concept (page 2). In “EXPORT LEXIKON. Chronologie der bewegten Bilder bei VALIE EXPORT”, ed. by Sylvia Szely (Wien, Sonderzahl 2007).
This year, CROSSING EUROPE will dedicate its Tribute section to one of the most important representatives of international media, film, and performance art: VALIE EXPORT. She was born in Linz in 1940, where she also grew up. On the occasion of her 80th birthday, and on the initiative of the VALIE EXPORT Centre Linz in cooperation with CROSSING EUROPE and sixpackfilm, a comprehensive program of VALIE EXPORT’s films and videos will be shown for the first time in her place of birth at this year’s edition of CROSSING EUROPE.
The tribute presents a selection of short and feature-length films from over forty years of being active as an artist. This includes experimental studies, world-famous performance works, feminist media critiques, and Expanded Cinema actions, ranging from 8mm film to large scale image formats, the first video systems to medical image investigations: conceptualized for the cinema hall, the exhibition space, or the television. In the framework of the festival the following feature-length and experimental films will be shown on the silver screen, in attendance of VALIE EXPORT, who will also give a Tribute-Talk.
| Feature length films |
- Unsichtbare Gegner/ Invisible Adversaries (AT 1976)
- Menschenfrauen / Human Females (AT 1979)
- Die Praxis der Liebe / The Practice of Love (AT/DE 1984) – Opening Film Crossing Europe 2020
- Das Bewaffnete Auge - VALIE EXPORT im Dialog mit der Filmavantgarde (D: Zoltan Pataky; AT 1984)
| Short films |
- Gedichte / Poems (AT 1966 – 1980)
- Selbstportrait mit Kopf / Self-Portrait with Head (AT 1966/67)
- TAPP und TASTKINO / TAP and TOUCH CINEMA (AT 1968)
- Body Tape (AT 1970)
- Hauchtext: Liebesgedicht / Breath Text: Love Poem (AT 1970 – 73)
- Facing a Family (AT 1971)
- ...Remote…Remote… (AT 1973)
- Adjungierte Dislokationen / Adjunct Dislocations (AT 1973)
- Asemie – die Unfähigkeit, sich durch Mienenspiel ausdrücken zu können / Asemie or the Inability to Express Oneself through Facial Expressions (AT 1973)
- Hyperbulie (AT 1973)
- Mann & Frau & Animal / Man & Woman & Animal (AT 1970-73)
- Sehtext: Fingergedicht / Visual Text: Finger Poem (AT 1973)
- Body Politics (AT 1974)
- Syntagma (AT 1983)
- Ein perfektes Paar oder die Unzucht wechselt ihre Haut / Lust (AT 1986)
- the voice as performance, act and body (AT 2007)
- i turn over the pictures of my voice in my head (AT 2009)
INVISIBLE ADVERSARIES (festival premiere at the Berlinale Forum 1977) was VALIE EXPORT’s first feature-length film and integrates various different artistic disciplines into the plot. Photography, performance, and video art fuse with the story of a woman who feels increasingly threatened by an invisible force.
MENSCHENFRAUEN (world premiere Berlinale Forum 1980) outlines the social relativity of women on the basis of four female protagonists who are all in relationships with men, and their attempts to break free from their relationships and the roles that are ascribed to them by society.
In the film THE PRACTICE OF LOVE (world premiere Berlinale Competition 1985), the artist transports her aesthetics from video art into a thriller, centered around sexual dependence and political corruption.
VALIE EXPORT (*1940 in Linz) is world-wide pioneer in media, performance, and film art. She has been active ever since the 1960s, and her works mostly concern the relationship between body and space in a physical, social, and technological form. After facing great hostilities, VALIE EXPORT now stands one of the most relevant and internationally successful artists who combine multi-media art practices and theories with feminist causes. She chose her artist name already in 1967, in order to symbolically distance herself from her assigned role as a female artist within a society dominated by men. She made waves in the 1960s and 1970s with body actions in the public space, among others with TAPP and TASTKINO. Her forms of expression range from drawings and conceptual photography, to installations and sculpture, to performance art. Motion picture always plays a big role in her works, both as film and video. The image and the conditions of its representation in the media have been her main topic since the very beginning. Her interest in structure, technology, and the impact of motion pictures stands opposite to her dealing with the body as a part of an existence split between reality and representation.
The co-founder of the Austrian Filmmakers Cooperative (1968) has taken part in multiple film and video festivals all over the world. Next to her activity as an internationally exhibiting artist, her participation at the Biennale in Venice (1980) and the documenta (1977, 2007), VALIE EXPORT also works as a curator. She teaches at institutions such as the Art Institute in San Francisco, the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee/USA, and the Hochschule der Künste Berlin. Until 2005 VALIE EXPORT held a professorship for multimedia performance at the art university for media in Cologne. In 2009 she was the co-commissioner of the Austrian pavilion at the Biennale in Venice.
VALIE EXPORT was awarded the best-endowed European art award, the Roswitha Haftmann prize for her oeuvre of pioneering feminist and media-reflexive works in 2019.