Austrian media artist



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Austrian media artist
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Date of Birth

May 17, 1940

Place of Birth

Linz, Austria

Arty Fact


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ajardini's picture

Sr. Editor

Growing up in post-war Austria, Waltraud Lehner (as the artist was named at birth) was educated in a convent until the age of 14. Don’t worry, the actions that would later define her artistic career couldn’t be further from what goes on in a nunnery.

The sociocultural climate that charged the Viennese art scene in the late 60s inspired Lehner to ditch both her father and married husband’s name in 1967 and reaffirm her radical perspectives on art and politics by choosing her own name. VALIE EXPORT (yes, all caps) was an essential member of a group called the Viennese Actionists. She brought her own badass feminist politics to the movement, which favored performances and actions over objects, and often included nudity, violence, and other stuff intended mostly to shock the general public out of their conservative stupor.

A provocative and brave woman, EXPORT exposed herself to harm and danger in progressive public performances. I commend her for paving the way for women who want to take charge of their own bodies and image, rules of society be damned! We bow to you, VALIE EXPORT!

alampel's picture


Everything about VALIE EXPORT is carefully constructed, all the way down to her name.

A multidisciplinary, conceptual artist from Austria whose early work controversially explored themes of sexuality and identity, EXPORT is hard to pin down. Her closest American counterpart may be Carolee Schneemann, who also used her body to stage performances that highlighted issues of gender and feminism. EXPORT went a step further and crafted her whole identity into an ironic message of gender equality. She is equal parts feminist, performance artist, and brand, with a whole lot more rolled in. EXPORT lifted her name from Smart Export, a brand of cigarettes that was primarily marketed towards working class men. In fact, EXPORT prefers that her name appears in capital letters so that it reads more like the name of a product.

Growing up in the traditional and serious atmosphere of Austrian art and culture, EXPORT’s frame of reference for art included Egon Schiele’s tortured images and Gustav Klimt’s formal explorations. EXPORT wanted to dismantle conservative, Viennese society. She grappled with the violence of the gender binary and what it meant to live within society’s constructed idea of womanhood. Her provocative, urban performances, which she captured on film, exploded all notions of such decorum. Tap and Touch Cinema was a thirty-three second experience in which EXPORT allowed men to touch her breasts through a faux TV screen attached to her body. The only payment that EXPORT required was that the men stare into her eyes while EXPORT coolly stared back. Although the men who “saw the film” may have been amused, other artists certainly were not. Just as EXPORT wanted, her films enraged them.

EXPORT’s style changed as she got older and moved beyond staging shocking performances. Whereas her early work focused on the hypocritical nature of female sexuality in the 1960s, her work evolved alongside changing social climates and political contexts. EXPORT’s later work with photography still involved her body, but she toned down how much she was exposing. Later decades of the twentieth century inspired themes of surveillance, information, and power. Let’s just say that QAnon would love her 1977 film Invisible Adversaries.

Although she is not much of a household name, EXPORT is deeply revered in certain circles. In 2005, at the Guggenheim, Marina Abramović paid homage to seven iconic performance pieces, including EXPORT’s Action Pants: Genital Panic and works by other performance-based weirdos like Joseph Beuys and Bruce Nauman. By the way, Genital Panic would make a great band name. You’re welcome.



  1. AWARE. “VALIE EXPORT.” Artists. Accessed 23 November 2020.
  2. Crippa, Karim. “‘Artists should break rules,’ says Austrian feminist icon VALIE EXPORT.” Art Basel. Accessed 23 November 2020.
  3. Fore, Devin. “Valie Export.” Interview Magazine. 24 August 2012. Accessed 23 November 2020.
  4. Indiana, Gary. “Valie Export.” BOMB Magazine. 1 April 1982. Accessed 23 November 2020.
  5. Judah, Hettie. “‘People were afraid of me’: the artist who turned her breasts into cinema.” The Guardian. Art. 3 December 2019.
  6. Kennedy, Randy. “Who is Valie Export? Just Look, and Please Touch.” The New York Times. Art & Design. 29 June 2016. Accessed 23 November 2020.

Featured Content

Here is what Wikipedia says about Valie Export

Valie Export (often stylized as 'VALIE EXPORT'; born Waltraud Lehner; May 17, 1940) is an avant-garde Austrian artist. She is best known for provocative public performances and expanded cinema work. Her artistic work also includes video installations, computer animations, photography, sculpture and publications covering contemporary art.

Early life

Valie Export was born Waltraud Lehner in Linz, Austria and was raised in Linz by a single mother of three. Export studied painting, drawing, and design at the National School for Textile Industry in Vienna.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Valie Export.