A radical performance artist ahead of her time

Marie-Luise Angerer

VALIE EXPORT numbers among the leading figures of international and feminist media art. Long before this art was referred to as media art, this artist understood body, gaze, touch and language as medial articulations/constructions, and deciphered the structures of power and desire inscribed therein in her artistic work. Since the mid-1970s EXPORT has been in contact with those woman theorists, filmmakers, and writers who took it upon themselves to track down the “invisible adversaries” (which is also the title of one of EXPORT's films, 1976/77) and to passionately expose to ridicule the traditions of church, family, science, medicine, and media that serve as powerful pillars of patriarchy.

Beyond the WOMAN's body by means of the body. This is how EXPORT's main strategy could be described: to demonstrate, using her own body, how much the latter makes use of powerful boundary lines to obstruct the body's characteristic alignments. VALIE EXPORT sounds out the overstepping of boundaries in – still to this day – partly irritating performances. And it is safe to say that she was not a trailblazer for today's worldwide tattoo craze when she had a garter tattooed on her thigh (1970). Yet this is precisely where the shamelessly thin line between art and everyday life, art and commercialism, art and kitsch, and art and capitalism shows, the very line that EXPORT was able to conceal/relocate/reveal with the garter in such a brilliantly ambiguous way.

VALIE EXPORT has known like no one else how to blend big gestures with little, unobtrusive signs, to use bold signals just as well as to highlight inconspicuous details. The opening of the VALIE EXPORT Center Linz is a showing of gratitude to this artist embodying the radical balancing act.