- Valie Export: Mediale A Nagramme
Valie Export is one of the founders of contemporary media art in Europe. Over the decades her multimedia work has included performance and feature film, filmed live action, experiments with cameras and expanded cinema, installation and video, photography and recently digital photography. In the 1960s she was the only woman among the Vienna Group of action artists. Moreover, as a woman artist under the influence of emerging feminist thinking, she used her own body and overtly showed female sexuality in order to provoke moral standards and public order, gender discrimination and dominant patriarchal discourse. Early performances and films put an emphasis on painful, overtly sexual and self-reflexive experiences of the female body. The artist underlines body awareness in site-specific photography in which she places herself in the city landscape as if wrapped around buildings and steps. In photography, film, and performance, Export shows not only the masturbating woman, but also her naked body's encounter with an electric fence, meant to reflect the status of woman as artist in repressive post-war Austrian society. This stance, in accordance with the Vienna Group, needs to be seen as a personal response to a society that is hardly over its Nazi past. Export's overriding concern is with dismantling media representations by making visible and audible the construction of realities that shape our perception of her work, thereby sometimes testing the physical experience of her own body to the limits.
Export understands media art as social criticism, and she deliberately uses different media languages to explore and express borderlands of mediated and real realities. Her ongoing concern as a media artist lies in the reflection of the zones and in-between spaces of media, arts and society, places where media merge with one another and identities multiply. As part of this strategy and in an act of cutting off the predefined identity that was attached to her through bearing the name of her father, the artist purposely has chosen the name Valie Export like a brand name and a tag. When in a 1970 photographic self-portrait the artist holds a cigarette packet bearing the logo "Valie Export," she demonstrates her own identity as a media program to scrutinize the conflict between self and media, between the tools and the cultural conditions of representation. She exposes her new identity as a brand name in capital letters and simultaneously sells a "product" and multiplies her "self" through a cultural process of transfer and transformation, becoming someone else.
In 2003, the Academy of Arts in Berlin showed major works of Valie Export in an exhibit entitled Mediale Anagramme (Media Anagrams), which compiled earlier conceptual pieces, experiments with film and photography, performances, expanded cinema and video installations from throughout her career. The work presented in the exhibition and additional text materials by Valie Export are documented in the catalog Media Anagrams, along with a series of theoretical articles that reflect on different aspects of Export's media interventions from the late 1960s until today. The analytical articles in the catalog build up a theoretical frame that corresponds with Export's own theoretical writings, especially where the artist explains the diversity of her approach, saying that the medium, rather than being the message, is no longer "one" single message. In a well-known essay (not included in the catalog), Export defines the body in terms of "the real and the double." Export here explicitly declares her conceptual principle that enunciation always involves the double, the other. The borders between different realities are shifting. The multiplicity of media, fragmentation of media language and reflections on media representation are Export's strategies to make the viewer aware and sensible of the different levels of media, representation and physicality of the body.
Roswitha Mueller, in discussing Export's concept of the body, relates it to [End Page 82]feminist discourse where the split of reality and self is analyzed as an experience typical of women in our societies. Such...