Expanded EXPORT: Toward a Phenomenological Reading of VALIE EXPORT's Work of the 1960s and 1970s
thesisposted on 01.08.2020, 00:00 by Chloe Lundgren
Best known for her seminal feminist performance and multi-media art of the 1960s and 1970s, Austrian artist VALIE EXPORT’s work has understandably most frequently been presented or accounted for in conversation with semiotic, deconstructionist, and psychoanalytic groundings – most often centered around her engagement with the social inscription of the female body and female experience in society. EXPORT’s feminist and deconstructionist interest in conditioned and conditioning language, imagery and film, especially as they relate, psychologically and otherwise, to the female body and experience, is certainly clear throughout her practice. However, I argue in this paper that also clearly evident throughout her practice, and part of what makes it so compelling and effective from a feminist standpoint, is a phenomenologically feminist interest in and commitment to making visible and deconstructing the complicated, preexisting and conditioned, and embodied modes of perceiving, experiencing, being, and acting as an individual, and especially as a “woman,” in an often hostile, patriarchal, and sensory-laden world. Due to the scope of this paper and preexisting scholarship’s tendencies to focus on the aforementioned semiotic, deconstructionist, and psychoanalytic groundings particularly in her earlier oeuvre, I limit the discussion here to EXPORT’s photography, film, expanded films, and actions of the 1960s and 1970s. To begin to draw out the phenomenologically feminist foundations of these works and EXPORT’s greater practice, I mainly employ the phenomenological aesthetic theories of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and the early gender performativity theories of Judith Butler.