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Konfiguration mit schwarzer hand
Gelatin silver print with drawn hand in black paint
Inv. Nr. 129
41,8 x 61,8 cm
Photo: © VBK, Wien, 2011

Born in 1940 in Linz, Austria
Lives and works in Vienna, Austria

Since the late sixties, VALIE EXPORT has concentrated on the body in her work, with the intention of challenging – in a society characterized by a false egalitarianism of gender – contradictions, pressures, and violence toward women. In her practice, performance is a means of investigating physical and psychological limits or is used as a device to destabilize sexist ideologies.

VALIE EXPORT – SMART EXPORT, one of her most emblematic works, depicts the artist holding a pack of cigarettes – those she was smoking at the time and which were called Smart Export – with her face printed on it. She created her artist’s name of VALIE EXPORT, in capitals, based on this brand of cigarettes – a very manly attribute – in her own words to “export myself, to bring ideas out of their harbours” and to fight against the prevailing machismo of the Austrian society and the Actionist Viennese art scene. This work – the branding of her own self – is a symbol of extreme self-determination in an aesthetic, social, and political sense and has become an iconic logo for the artist.

In her 1968 performance Aus der Mappe der Hundigkeit (From the Portfolio of Doggedness), VALIE EXPORT walked her partner, Peter Weibel, on a leash, taking him onto the streets of Vienna, causing discomfort and confusion for passers-by. This action, documented by a video and photographs, aimed at revealing the relationship between the sexes as a power-game by taking women's liberation from male oppression to an extreme.

In her 1968 performance Aktionshose: Genitalpanik (Action Pants: Genital Panic), VALIE EXPORT went into a cinema – supposedly a porn theatre – in Munich, wearing crotchless pants, and walked around the audience with her exposed genitalia at face level. On the black-and-white photographs associated with this action and taken one year after, the artist is facing the camera, sitting on a bench in her torn pants, with her legs wide open and brandishing a machine gun. This violent setting recalls the notions of guerrilla warfare and revolution, particularly pertinent at that time. EXPORT had them screen-printed as a poster so as to flypost the picture in public spaces and on the streets. The performance at the cinema and the photographs were both aimed toward provoking thoughts about the passive role of women in cinema and confronting the private nature of sexuality with the public venues of her performances, metaphorically reinforced by the male phallic symbol of the gun in the photographs.

VALIE EXPORT performed the action Tapp und Tastkino (Touch Cinema), which was documented by video and photographs, in the streets of ten European cities over three years. Wearing a wooden box fronted by a curtain on the upper half of her body, EXPORT invited people to reach inside and fondle her breasts. Like Aktionshose: Genitalpanik, Tapp und Taskino forced people to encounter parts of the female body in public.

In 1973, at Vienna South station, VALIE EXPORT wrote the term “Schriftzug” (Writing) several times on a second-class coach of the Austrian Federal Railways, using its surface as a blackboard. The result of this minimal performance is a series of four pictures depicting the message disappearing as the train departs.