Since opening in 1983, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac has specialised in international, contemporary art representing around 60 artists and a number of renowned estates. They will be joining PHOTOFAIRS | Shanghai this coming September.
VALIE EXPORT is a self-declared media artist and is a pioneer in this regard, both in her cinematic and video work. In a series entitled Body Configurations [Körperkonfigurationen] (1972-82), she approached the issue of the relationship between a constructed body language and the surrounding urban space. She has continued her taboo-breaking, socially critical work since the late 1980s, in her involvement with digital technologies.
We spoke the artist prior to her exhibiting in Shanghai, about the works that will be on show and how she sees the role of an artist.
What works will you present at PHOTOFAIRS Shanghai? Please talk us through the work.
At PHOTOFAIRS | Shanghai I'll be presenting early photographs and Body Configurations as an expression of the inner state of my body in its surroundings since 1972. These are historical photographic works which, together with my early performances, are central to my study of Body Art.
© VALIE EXPORT, AUSPRÄGUNG, 1976. Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac (London, Paris, Salzburg)
What is your aim in exhibiting your work at PHOTOFAIRS Shanghai?
My aim is to find shared visions, to hold international, intercontinental conversations through the medium of the photograph. What links continents and countries, what differentiates them?
Do you see any similarities between your work and Chinese contemporary art?
I'm keeping an open mind; I'll see whether I discover parallels. But one thing I already know is the highly expressive quality of Chinese photography, and the political messages it conceals.
© VALIE EXPORT, Zwiespalt, 1972. Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac (London, Paris, Salzburg)
What is the role of an artist?
The role of an artist is to draw attention to the way changes are taking place, where socio-political forms are changing. Art must alert people to these things and must sharpen their perception.
© VALIE EXPORT, KÖRPER-NATUR-VERBINDUNG, 1974. Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac (London, Paris, Salzburg)
What do you think makes photography special and unique as a medium?
I see photography in its analogue form as a triangle; an object (the thing in front of my camera), the camera (which has its own view), and myself (the person that has chosen the camera) with my own view. I find it very interesting that photography suggests so many different canvases – there is a variety of picture supports, whether in the original picture, or in its visualisation.