Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography

Valie Export. Action Pants: Genital Panic. 1969

VALIE EXPORT, Peter Hassmann. Action Pants: Genital Panic. 1969

Screenprints, Each 26 3/8 x 19 5/8" (67 x 49.8 cm). The Modern Women's Fund. © 2018 VALIE EXPORT / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VBK, Austria.

Curator, Roxana Marcoci: In 1968, at age 28, the Austrian artist Waltraud Hollinger, changed her name to VALIE EXPORT, to announce her presence on the Viennese art scene. She was very eager to counter the male dominated company of a group of artists known as the Vienna Actionists and she sought a new identity that was, not bound by her father's last name, or for that matter by her former husband's name. So she transformed herself into VALIE. And then appropriated EXPORT, which was the name of a popular brand of cigarettes, as her last name.

For this particular performance, VALIE marched into an experimental art film house in Munich, wearing crotchless trousers, a leather shirt, and her hair very wildly teased. She walked between the rows of the seated viewers, who were mostly male patrons, and she challenged them to look at the real thing, rather than just enjoy images of women on the screen. Her genitalia was pretty much exposed at face level, and that shocked the audience at the time, and eventually they left the film house.

The picture that memorialized this performance, happened a year later. It was shot by Peter Hassmann, a photographer in Vienna, and for this picture, VALIE also decide to hold a machine gun in her hand, to empower herself even further. Then she had the image screen printed in a large edition, and posted it all over the town, in public squares, on the streets, and the group of posters that you see here is intended to preserve this idea of her original installation.

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