View of “VALIE EXPORT / Archive,” 2011. From left: . . . Remote . . . Remote . . . , 1973; Gedichte (Poems), 1966/1980; Splitscreen—Solipsismus, 1968.

View of “VALIE EXPORT / Archive,” 2011. From left: . . . Remote . . . Remote . . . , 1973; Gedichte (Poems), 1966/1980; Splitscreen—Solipsismus, 1968.


View of “VALIE EXPORT / Archive,” 2011. From left: . . . Remote . . . Remote . . . , 1973; Gedichte (Poems), 1966/1980; Splitscreen—Solipsismus, 1968.

VALIE EXPORT’s trailblazing work has long been considered central to contemporary art history. It is characterized by her militant stance, her penetrating analysis of society, politics, and culture, and her fundamental belief in the alterability of prevailing power relationships. Provocation, the eternally young artist insists, moves things forward. The results of her practice of resistance are incunabula of feminist art—works such as Tapp und Tastkino (Tap and Touch Cinema), 1968, Aus der Mappe der Hundigkeit (From the Portfolio of Doggedness), 1968, and Body Sign Action, 1970.

For her exhibition in Bregenz, EXPORT distanced herself from the traditionally curated retrospective. Instead, with “VALIE EXPORT / Archive,” she allowed a glimpse of her innermost self, by means of a unique sort of treasure trove sorted into files, stored in boxes, stuffed into suitcases, and piled to the rafters in her studio: Aside from “occasional acts of obliteration,” as the artist put it, EXPORT has thrown away nothing in fifty years. The organizers of the exhibition, Yilmaz Dziewior and Rudolf Sagmeister, were therefore able to come up with real finds from the memory vault of this charismatic artist. There are early sketches, still lifes, serial pencil drawings of things like waves and dunes, mirror drawings, drafts and scripts, critical analyses of media, and conceptual photographs. In EXPORT’s universe, personal collections (postcards, plastic dinosaurs) mingle with historical newspaper clippings, film posters, and props such as the crotchless jeans she wore in her 1969 performance Genitalpanik (Genital Panic). All of this was displayed in fifty-seven glass cases (designed for the occasion by Wilfried Kuehn)—art and reference material crammed into an explosive recounting of the career of an artist who has never tired of questioning power and the ways in which it is exerted, who recognizes no boundaries between the physical body and other media.

The layout of the exhibition employed the three levels of the Kunsthaus to thematize leaps in time. The archive level on the top floor was situated across from what EXPORT called a “forest of films.” Coolly, she assorted and juxtaposed her media work: films, videos, and filmed performances or actions. This collection included the unsettling 16-mm film . . . Remote . . . Remote . . . , 1973, examples of “expanded cinema” such as Split Reality, 1970, and the grand film installation Adjungierte Dislokationen (Adjoining Dislocations), 1973. Also shown was Syntagma, 1983, a multilayered sketchbook investigating film as the method for an artwork comprising bodily performance as well as feminism in theory and practice. The sound from Hauchtext: Liebesgedicht (Breathtext: Love Poem), 1970, pulsed through the darkened room, creating a reserved yet decisive relationship between artist and viewers. Between this section on “Film as Operative Instrument” and “EXPORT Basic Research” on the ground floor was a sort of comfort zone on the second floor, where a new arrangement of EXPORT’s profoundly poetic work Fragmente der Bilder einer Berührung (Fragments of Images of Contact), 1994, unfolded. Lightbulbs slowly descended into and rose from tall glass cylinders filled with milk, mineral oil, and water. This rhythmic up-and-down movement hinted that on this floor, one would find works whose origin and context could be discovered downstairs. “VALIE EXPORT / Archive” was a windfall—a rare opportunity to study the unique grammar and syntax of this legendary artist’s works in depth.

Brigitte Huck

Translated from German by Anne Posten.