(b. 1940)

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(1940– )

Austrian Performance and installation artist, photographer and film‐maker. Born in Linz as Walltraud Höllinger, she adopted the name VALIE EXPORT, derived from a brand of cigarette, in 1967. Her demand that it always be capitalized is not universally respected in publications. In the same year in Vienna she developed in collaboration with Peter Weibel (1944– ) the conception of ‘expanded cinema’. One notorious instance was the Tapp und Tastkino (Touch Cinema) of 1968 when she walked the streets in a box like a tiny cinema with curtains through which passers‐by, regardless of age or gender, could touch her breasts. Roswitha Mueller has argued that this reverses the normal functions of cinema in which the female body can be enjoyed voyeuristically through sight while the spectator can take refuge in the cinema's darkness. Here physical contact is possible but the price is that the toucher can be seen publicly. At this time the naked female breast had ceased to be a taboo in the context of European commercial cinema. Sexual liberation was seen by many of the young as the vital counterpart to political liberation. In another piece to be performed inside the cinema, Genital Panic (1969), she walked through spectators with the crotch cut from her tight fitting trousers. ‘Expanded Cinema’ also comprised combinations of film, performance, and installation. Later she made a number of feature films for normal cinema presentation such as Invisible Adversaries (1976).

EXPORT states that her work represents a ‘Feminist Actionism’ (see Vienna actionism) in contrast to that of her male Viennese contemporaries such as Gunter Brus. It seeks to ‘transform the object of male natural history, the “material woman”, into an independent actor and creator’. In a lecture of 2003, ‘Expanded Cinema as Expanded Reality’, she placed her practice within a tradition going back to the Futurists and Constructivists of the early 20th century, in its rejection of illusionism.

Further Reading

R. Mueller, VALIE EXPORT: Fragments of Imagination (1994)

Subjects: Art.

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