Body Sign Action by Valie Export, 1970
“The tattooing of the body demonstrates the connection between ritual and civilization. Incorporated in a tattoo, the garter belt signifies a former enslavement, is a garment symbolizing repressed sexuality, an attribute of our non-self-determined womanhood. A social ritual that covers up a bodily need is unmasked, our culture’s opposition to the body is laid open. As a symbol of membership in a caste which demands conditioned behaviour, the garter belt becomes a memento. The female body peels off and discards the imprint of a world which has never been a woman’s world, in order to arrive at a human world in which women can autonomously define their existence.”
The public tattooing of Valie Export on a stage in Frankfurt on 2 July 1970 exemplifies the radical character of her feminist art performances: a garter belt – a fetish of male sexual fantasies – is painfully, indelibly marked on her own body in order to disclose the functionalizaton and social role of the woman as sex object, and to reflect the social determination by males. At the same time, art is irrevocably engraved on her body.