Margarete Lamb-Faffelberger: “Export’s and Jelinek’s feminist aesthetics is an aesthetics of resistance”

Margarete Lamb-Faffelberger, Professorin am Lafayette College (USA), beschäftigt sich in ihrem Aufsatz Austria’s Feminist Avant-Garde: Valie Export’s and Elfriede Jelinek’s Aesthetic Innovations mit den Gemeinsamkeiten der ästhetischen Verfahren von VALIE EXPORT und Elfriede Jelinek:

Jelinek’s literature as well as Export´s films are directed at undermining the fundamental concepts of our thinking. Traditional premises such as logic and causality are confronted critically to make translucent the established canons and the limits of their truths. In spite of Export´s and Jelinek’s doubt that art today can be used as means for social change, their work nevertheless is directed towards social consciousness-raising.1) Thus, Export’s and Jelinek’s feminist aesthetics is an aesthetics of resistance.
Austria´s feminist avant-garde aesthetics attempts to illuminate the hidden truths shadowed within the deep structure of meaning. Export and Jelinek transform existing images by creating texts of association that chain the conscious to the unconscious – both in the act of art creation and in the reception process. The normative use of language disappears and a new form emerges by releasing meaning, images of the mind that are hidden within the semantic canons of western society.
Export and Jelinek developed a critical art of looking, a kind of seeing which resembles the camera-vision of a photographer.2) The artistic eye is quasi directed through a photographic lens onto the surface structure of society in order to elucidate social processes. When one looks through a camera lens, one sees a view restricted to a topographic segment of the whole. If one zooms in on a particular segment, that section appears enlarged. Details become recognizable. The selected segment – in ist own „blown-up“ character – can be an indication of the actual structure and the true nature of the „big picture.“ Creating their text-collages, the artists arrange and re-arrange their selected segments, segments of surface. By capturing several different enlarged segments and arranging them anew, they deconstruct the whole surface.
It is this artistic technique of deconstructing and creating anew which is subversive. The technique of dismemberment of topographic structures gained through a selective photographic viewpoint inherent in Jelinek’s literary and Export’s film texts exposes the deep-structure of signifiers – or according to Roland Barthes, the notions of myths. The process of exposure is the process of excavating the deep structure by penetrating the topography of images, of language, of meaning.

1) Johann Stangel, Das annulierte Individuum (Bern/New York: Peter Lang, 1988), 14.
2) Günther A. Höfler, „Vergrößerungsspiegel und Objektiv: Zur Fokussierung der Sexualität bei Elfriede Jelinek,“ Elfriede Jelinek, ed. Kurt Bartsch and Günter Höfler (Graz: Droschl, 1991), 157.

aus: Margarete Lamb-Faffelberger: Austria’s Feminist Avant-Garde: Valie Export’s and Elfriede Jelinek’s Aesthetic Innovations. In: Lamb-Faffelberger, Margarete (Hg.): Out from the shadows. Essays on Contemporary Austrian Women Writers and Filmmakers. Riverside: Ariadne Press 1997, S. 229-241, S. 231-232.