The Albertina brings us fearless feminist art in a retrospective for the iconic Austrian artist VALIE EXPORT.
- A true trailblazer
- Often provocative approaches
- Photos, videos, drawings & installations
- Time has not dulled the art’s relevance
- Runs Jun 23 – Oct 1, 2023
- Book Albertina tickets* online
- See also:
(VALIE EXPORT in cooperation with Peter Weibel, From the Portfolio of Dogness, 1968, gelatin silver print; courtesy Gallery Thaddaeus Ropac, London · Paris · Salzburg · Seoul; © VALIE EXPORT, Bildrecht, Vienna 2023; photo: Joseph Tandl)
In my ongoing efforts to remain entirely lacking in self-awareness, I never let the absence of a formal art education stop me from waxing lyrical on the various exhibitions I visit for this website.
The VALIE EXPORT retrospective at the Albertina has come closest, though, to silencing my uneducated pen. It is challenging. Evocative and provocative. Alarming and disarming. All depending on your perspective, of course.
If art is meant to elicit a reaction, then this one did so far (far) better than most.
Art in the Albertina is perhaps best known for Dürer’s Young Hare. We are a long way from watercolours of small mammals.
EXPORT (b. 1940) remains one of Austria’s most influential and innovative creators.
A pioneer. A media and performance artist. A feminist and (based on what I saw) a visionary in identifying and anticipating social and gender issues related to ingrained patriarchal biases. Someone who does not shy away from baring all (sometimes literally) to point a finger at, for example, inherent misogyny.
(VALIE EXPORT, VALIE EXPORT – SMART EXPORT Self-Portrait, 1970, gelatin silver print; The ALBERTINA Museum, Vienna – The ESSL Collection; © VALIE EXPORT, Bildrecht, Vienna 2023; photo: © Gertraud Wolfschwenger, Bildrecht, Wien 2023)
The exhibition highlights a huge swathe of EXPORT’s artistic chronology. It covers videos and (mostly) photos, both as art in their own right or as documentation of performance art. Drawings and installations also round out the collection.
The first work you see after descending the escalator to the gallery hints at what’s to come.
Action Pants: Genital Panic from 1969 has EXPORT in a masculine pose, armed with a machine gun, the crotch area cut out from her clothes. Her look: defiant? Challenging? A conceptual middle finger to social expectations of women.
That challenging look we’ll see elsewhere in the exhibition.
Not that everything is about a feminist perspective. I also enjoyed works like Street Intersection Belgium (1973), for example.
Here, EXPORT reminds us that media representations (even a simple street snapshot) are but one chosen projection among many possibilities and often do not reflect the reality of the human experience. Her panoramas and projections almost seem to anticipate virtual reality.
My personal highlights:
(VALIE EXPORT, DIVIDE AND CONQUER! after: Martin Schongauer, “The Holy Family” 1475-1480, 1976, gelatin silver print; courtesy Gallery Thaddaeus Ropac, London · Paris · Salzburg · Seoul; © VALIE EXPORT, Bildrecht, Vienna 2023)
A modern woman reproduces female poses from classical works by, for example, Botticelli (like Venus in his 1483 Venus and Mars). This serves to highlight stereotypical expectations of women in terms of roles and behaviour.
1998’s The In-finite/un-definite Melody of Threads
Around 25 monitors show the needle of a sewing machine moving up and down ceaselessly. Mirrored walls then replicate the view into infinity.
The effect proves quite startling and carries echoes of Orwell’s 1984. The concept has perhaps added resonance today as companies (and society) become ever more technocratic.
1994’s Fragments of the Images of a Caress
A set of illuminated light bulbs that rise and fall, plunging as they do into cylinders containing different liquids.
The result is rather absorbing, given the different colours and light intensities so projected. Not to mention a frisson of nervousness each time a lit bulb drops into water.
Dates, tickets & tips
Explore the world and vision of VALIE EXPORT from June 23rd to October 1st, 2023. An entrance ticket for or from the Albertina includes the exhibition.
(Booking service provided by Tiqets.com*, who I am an affiliate of)
EXPORT’s verve lives on in contemporary art, of course. Try these suggestions for viewing today’s Viennese art scene. I have spotted her works, for example, in the The Avant-Garde section of Upper Belvedere.
How to get there
Just follow the travel tips at the bottom of the main Albertina page to find this central museum.
The exhibition occupies the lowest floor (-1). Those rooms normally follow a standard gallery layout but the walls are split and angled much like a simplified labyrinth for VALIE EXPORT.
Address: Albertinaplatz 1, 1010 Vienna