The Third Woman
Actionism, Performance and Attitudes

Art Encounters Foundation, Timișoara, Romania 17 juin-7 août 2021

VALIE EXPORT, Justizpalast (3), 1982, 124 x 187 cm (c) VALIE EXPORT, Bildrecht Wien, 2021. Courtesy Valie Export

An exhibition curated by Ami Barak & Diana Marincu with Gia Țidorescu.

Miryam and Daniel Charim have been building up a major collection of early Austrian performance art and Viennese Actionism since the late 1960s. The main emphasis of the collection is on early works of VALIE EXPORT – Austria’s most significant media artist – as well as works by representatives of Viennese Actionism and international artists in the same context.

The exhibition The Third Woman – Actionism, Performance and Attitudes from the Charim Collection with the support of Ovidiu Sandor ‘s collection includes significant pieces from the early 1970s and 1980 by VALIE EXPORT, Gunter Brus, Arnulf Rainer/Dieter Roth, Rudolf Schwarzkogler, Franz West, Hermann Nitsch, Heinz Frank and Rudolf Polanszky, often rarely, if ever, previously shown. The exhibition also presents outstanding contemporary works by Maja Bajevic, John Bock, Lisl Ponger, Christoph Schlingensief, Milica Tomic, Rosa Barba, etc., which refer to and cross-reference these approaches. Ovidiu Sandor is interested in Romanian artists linked to the spirit of the avant-garde and his collection includes several tutelary’s figures whose approaches are similar and intersect with their Viennese colleagues. Prominent personalities such as Andre Cadere, Ana Lupaş, Geta Brătescu, Ion Grigorescu, Doru Tulcan, Decebal Scriba fit in almost naturally and prove without a doubt that they hold their rank

At the center of The Third Woman are the still influential works of VALIE EXPORT. A pioneer of critical art, she deployed her own body with a polarizing radicalism, breaking through traditional concepts of femininity within a discourse, largely dominated by men. Alongside photographs, works on paper, texts, installations and showcases of reference materials on her early performances, an extensive array of 29 video films documents VALIE EXPORT’s unique status as a media artist.

Including works by the early Vienna Actionists, Günter Brus, Arnulf Rainer/Dieter Roth, Rudolf Schwarzkogler and Franz West like a worthy heir, The Third Woman introduce side by side significant players from the period around 1970 and 1980. These works challenge both the prevailing male, phallocentric viewpoint and the socially critical position of the artist in person. Categorically rejecting moral taboos, Christian constraints and the clinical image of the body, the aim of Viennese Artists was to break all boundaries in art.

The selection of works reflects the family background of the Charim’s in Vienna’s paradoxical situation after the Second World War: radical conceptual art forms sprang up, rejecting antiquated bourgeoisie in both their contents and politics, and these sparked the interest of the collectors. Intellectual affinity with the content of their stance developed into friendship with the artists, whose works were striving for a new, open-minded society like the one in which the collectors – personally involved in politics and culture – were living. The collection, which grew up over many years, is characterized by an unsated hunger for the new and the experimental, with a preference for the performative. Critical enquiries into socially determined roles are at its core and the exhibition shows how these issues are reflected in artistic trends both then and now.

The exhibition of the Viennese Charim Collection next to those of Ovidiu Sandor in Timișoara,whose nickname is “little Vienna” is a unique opportunity for an intense encounter with the radical artistic movements of the 20thcentury. The long-term significance of this 1970s current – now part of art history – can be experienced in dialogue with selected contemporary artworks from the collection. 

City of Freud and the philosopher Wittgenstein, the Austrian capital has already transgressed the taboos in the early 20th century with the painters Klimt, Kokoschka and especially Schiele, who shocks with explicit sexual representations. But the Actionists are also and above all children of the war, in a country where, unlike Germany, the Nazi past is repressed, literally buried in a petty-bourgeois normality, which helps to explain this extreme reaction.

Vienna has always played a large role in the ideological conflict between East and West, being of strategic importance during the Cold War. The occupation of the country after the Second World War and the neutrality opened a new perspective for Austria, both in terms of foreign affairs and geopolitics. This neutrality has gained a new importance on the international scene.

Thirty years ago, the iron curtain fell. 15 years ago, post-communist Romania became a member of the European Union. For a European Capital of Culture, it is beneficial to know better an important economic and cultural partner and to learn about a part of the history of post-war art which, in many forms and approaches, have had their echoes and their collateral effects between the two cities near and far at a time.

Matthew Antezzo, Alexandru Antik, Maja Bajevic, Rosa Barba, John Bock,Geta Brătescu, Günter Brus, André Cadere, VALIE EXPORT, Peter Weibel, Heinz Frank, Dorothee Golz, Ion Grigorescu, Ana Lupaş, Tracey Moffatt, Hermann Nitsch, Miklós Onucsán, Rudolf Polanszky, Lisl Ponger, Dieter Roth/Arnulf Rainer, Christoph Schlingensief, Rudolf Schwarzkogler, Decebal Scriba, Patricia Teodorescu, Milica Tomić, Doru Tulcan, Sorin Vreme, Franz West/Andreas Reiter Raabe