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The Body is Feminism: Valie Export and Friedl Kubelka

The Body is Feminism and feminine. But how many said Feminism and Feminists aren’t feminine at all?
Feminism is a trending topic more than ever: Beyonce, Lena Dunham, Emma Watson (with her speech at United Nations), Lorde, and Taylor Swift among many others, speak and spoke… and I found even the woman against feminism tumblr.

Finally the theme is on again, hotter than ever; what was brought up in the sixties and seventies has to go further and deeper, and it has to meet who fights for human rights in general, and sees (for many different and opposite reasons) feminism in a negative way. We are still far, and to do my part I want to share the experience of Feminist Actionism from the city I am born in, Vienna, represented in the actual exhibition of Valie Export and Friedl Kubelka at Richard Saltoun Gallery in London.

Both artists posited their art at the centre of artistic debates of subjects of gender, the body, and politics. The photographic images and films that result from their practices are presented through the lens of a personal reflective awareness of the body.

Export, now 74, defined herself as a Feminist Actionist, “an independent actor and creator, subject of her own history.” Born Waltraud Lehner, she created her artists’ name based on Smart Export, this brand of cigarettes she was smoking at the time. Most clear about her feminist action is her artwork “Action Pants”.

Her photos are remarkable. They‘re political and rejectionist, indebted to – and part of – the Actionist ethos of fellow Viennese artists like Günter Brus, Otto Mühl and Hermann Nitsch. But they’re also painfully personal, communicative of something that moves beyond intellectual statement. It’s indicative that Kubelka barely thought of herself as an artist: “Of course I had a lover,” she says. “And of course I wanted to please him. I thought he would like this (the pictures). I didn’t consider them art. I didn’t admit them to other artists in Vienna, because the women were very feminist.”

Kubelka will present her celebrated Jahreportraits (Year Portraits): a project begun in 1972, in which she photographed herself daily over the period of a year and has repeated the process every five years since. Key examples of this series will be exhibited alongside her Pin-ups, 1971-1974. These intimate staged self-portraits, taken by Kubelka in Paris and Vienna, directly confront the viewer in their adoption of the ‘erotic’.

EXPORT and Kubelka were both included in WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution (MoCA, LA, 2007) and elles@centrepompidou (Centre George Pompidou, Paris, 2009). This is the first time they will be exhibited alongside one another in the UK.

Check more about it this great report by British Journal of Photography and get a new generation’s point of view and experience checking Girls Who Code and playing Tampon Run game, an 8-bit vintage style video game made by girls to rip a red female and male taboo.

VALIE EXPORT (b. 1940, Linz, Austria)
EXPORT’s iconic work Touch Cinema (1968), in which she constructed a Styrofoam box and placed it over her chest, inviting passersby to reach in and touch her breasts, still resonates for its shock-value and use of experimental mediums. A recipient of the Grand Gold Decoration for Services to the Republic of Austria (2010), her work was included in the 53rd Venice Biennale (2009). Solo exhibitions include Centre George Pompidou, Paris, (2008) and Kunsthaus Bregenz, Bregenz, Austria (2011).

Friedl Kubelka (vom Gröller) (b. 1946, London, UK)
Born in London to parents seeking political refuge, Kubelka spent her childhood in East Berlin before her parents settled in Vienna. She studied industrial photography at the Graphic Instruction and Research Institute, Vienna, from 1965 to 1969. She later founded her own ‘School of Artistic Photography’ in the city (1990), and the School for Independent Film (2010). She was awarded the State Prize for Photography in 2005, Austria’s most prestigious photography award, and has had solo exhibitions at the Centre George Pompidou, Paris (1980), Fotogalerie, Vienna (2004), and the Nederlands Fotomuseum, Rotterdam (2005).

juliana de nicola. Senior Fashion and Art Editor
Juliana is an italian-austrian artist and designer. After academical art-studies and fashion Ba she started working as a free-lance in fashion business covering different roles to feed her curiosity, while her personal projects are growing out of her mouth and ears restless. She was born in Vienna in the past century, loves her savage dogs, lives now in Florence, and travels every time she can.


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