The work of Austrian media and performance artist VALIE EXPORT (born 1940) has drawn attention for its provocative content and sometimes militant critique of modern culture’s passive consumption of images. Nathan Stobaugh considers how EXPORT’s art addresses attention itself as a problem for postwar art practice.
All art objects, it might be argued, engage with the problem of capturing the attention of potential viewers. Attention, however, figures as a particularly pressing issue in critical understandings of modern artworks, particularly as an aspect of the relationship between art and emergent forms of mass media. VALIE EXPORT, whose work directly confronts the challenges and possibilities of cinema, television, and advertising, provides a generative case study for understanding how artworks have come to contend with new media landscapes and changing economies of attention. In doing so, her work proposes a series of interrelated questions: How does art engage with mass audiences after the instrumentalization of attention under dictatorial regimes? How could the history of art be invoked to find models for reconfiguring such instrumentalization? And how might the perspective of a female artist in a misogynistic culture be particularly germane to the attempt to answer such questions?
Nathan Stobaugh is Fulbright/IFK_Junior Fellow.
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