Valie Girl: Keeping In Touch

Touch—you know you want it. We all do. Human interaction is what binds us. Solitary confinement can be construed as a violation of one’s basic human rights; the slanket has run a late-night tv course and now is the time for each and every one of us to send up a flag of surrender in the war for solidarity and the senses. We are not alone, and the proof is at Zak | Branicka’s current VALIE EXPORT exhibition, Images of Contingence. You heard it here first, folks: you can touch it—if you want. 

Let’s Talk Milk

Seriously. Let’s stop to evaluate the meaning and the metric that merits: let’s re-evaluate the mother’s milk. Seminally, among all of the artists who I consider integral to the legacy of my existence, I include VALIE EXPORT at the very forefront. It might be an American thing—this obsession with Gatsby, with Jay-Z, with people magazineJ Lo’s ass and Jennifer Aniston’s assets.

Still frame from a VALIE EXPORT video at Zak | Branicka. Photo: Chris Phillips

And yet, VALIE EXPORT was essential for me: the bread, bone and blood of art—the real deal. And now, on the third floor of the Lindenstraße gallery space that houses no shortage of big names and breadwinners, there lives a retrospective of sorts—the latest and greatest of Valie Export. Either that or, as it tends to happen, a death knell: the​ pre-retrospective and the end of an artist's world as we know it. 

Intimate Liaisons​

Light-bulbs pulse in and out of beakers—bile, vile, milk, oil, water. This is EXPORT’s view of life, of touch, of those connections that make us human, that give us life, that bare witness to the pain, the passage of time, the ultimate meaning of it all.

With EXPORT's installation "Fragmente der Bilder einer Berührung." Photo: Chris Phillips

And, frankly, amidst the aforementioned and newfound Fragmente der Bilder einer Berührung, the outdated Tastkino (Touch Cinema) feels quaintly outdated—an homage to the personal and the imperfect in the days of the selfie. EXPORT’s personal polaroid-esque pictures of a human form alongside stairs, caressing a pillar, speak to the longing we all hold within ourselves. The meaning behind the manic, pulsing images of sewing needles, tirelessly piercing the illusory fabric of existence in Un-ending Unique Melody of Chords, is the yearning to tie oneself to another. 

Never Losing Touch

At its root, that is the meaning behind the VALIE EXPORT show: touch and the typification of such. What does it mean to hold another person, to be close, to become conjoined? When, why, wherefore do individual elements become one with another? This is the true question at rest behind this pomp and altogether fitting circumstance: what is the true relationship between person and person? 

Detail from VALIE EXPORT's installation at Zak | Branicka. Photo: Chris Phillips

Let's, as per the wishes of the artist, consider touch. Let’s consider Bangladesh and the humans who sew our H&M clothes in light of the recent warehouse collapse and EXPORT's installation of sewing machine needles throbbing up and down. Let’s consider a mother’s milk in light of genetically modified dairy and the light bulbs inching their way in and out of beakers of milk and oil. Let’s talk about truth, trust, tough; after all, that’s VALIE EXPORT’s explicit subject. What do you think, shall we consider the true meaning of interpersonal relationships, or is that just a bit too much?

Article by Hannah Nelson-Teutsch