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Body Sign Aktion (Export, Valie), 1970

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a fundamental antithesis? It is helpful when considering this issue to look back to the time before Reality TV with all its theoretical implications and examine the hybrid relationship between reality and mediatedness in early body-oriented productions of media and action artists. Their agenda might have been reformulated as: «Discovering just how much mediality humankind can bear.» Even in the early 1970s, however, concentration on the «body as (mediated) occurrence » reflected the discovery that no lasting impact had been achieved with political interventions in other media and contexts. Performance artists therefore saw themselves as impelled to produce more violent actions—see the works of Gina Pane, Mike Parr or, later, of the Autoperforation artists in what was then East Germany. If in 1961 Niki de Saint Phalle and Jean Tinguely had articulated their cause with the words «Shoot at art,» the motto now became «Shoot at the artists,» for instance in Chris Burden's «Shoot.» Burden saw danger and pain as catalytic converters that must be understood as exercises of power and self-control in the literal sense.[51] The art historian Henry Sayre


stresses the implicit mediatization when he refers to the «market value» of an artist who has been shot at—a dubious honor so far confined to Andy Warhol, on whom an attack was perpetrated in 1968 and whose face the media promoted to a kind of pop icon of art.

Transformations of, and inscriptions on, the body should not however be understood as a purely visual act. Valie Export's «Body Sign Action» of 1970 is paradigmatic of the indelible inscription of cultural codes onto the body. Thus, the body becomes the medium of codes legible in various ways—economically, socially, sexually. Peggy Phelan drew the following theoretical conclusion: Performance does not admit symbolic representation but is a representation of reality; not, however, as a fundamental antithesis to the mediated, since the latter always contains the real.[52] As Valie Export demonstrated in her public tattooing action, this act of inscription could be diverted into the field of artistic identity: As an act of self-inscription, the gender-constructed identity can be made visible and thus potentially be experienced in a different way.[53]

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