Intervention VALIE EXPORT

Thursday, April 24
Met Lucie at around 10.30 am at Rabensteig

Ilse Mezei, 1941

VALIE EXPORT intervenes in the Visible Display and archive of the Jewish Museum Vienna. Using objects and documents from the Museum collections, she functions as a temporary curator, creating an installation in the room that most obviously reflects the act of collecting and remembering. The objects in the Visible Display offer an insight into the museum’s diverse collections and the backgrounds to them and mirror the history and present-day reality of the Vienna Jewish community and the Museum itself. VALIE EXPORT’s intervention interacts with the existing exhibition and sheds new light on the objects and their stories.  

VALIE EXPORT has chosen childhood as the theme for her intervention, focusing in this way on a specific group of historical actors and their connection with the museum objects. The permanent exhibition “Our City! Jewish Vienna Then to Now,” for example, has numerous stories about children and juveniles, and many of the objects associated with them can be found in the museum’s collections. VALIE EXPORT’s intervention searches through the diverse items in these collections, which—as so often in museums—are to extensive to display in their entirety. Through her selection, children’s stories that had previously slumbered in the form of objects in the Visual Display are reawakened. The owners of some of the objects are known: Ilse Mezei’s diary, which inspired the title of VALIE EXPORT’s intervention, offers a specific insight into the life of Ilse and other Jews during World War II and the Shoah in Vienna. Elfriede Balsam’s poetry collection recalls the long tradition of friendship that will certainly be familiar to many visitors, but tells us little about Elfriede herself. Other objects give no indication of ownership but bear witness through their original functions as toys, lucky charms, or information sheets to the life of Jewish children at different times. These museum objects are placed in parallel with a drawing by VALIE EXPORT from the year 1973 entitled Child in Front of the Mirror/Box.

Whether personalized or abstract, all of the objects show how identify is formed in childhood and what remains after a person’s death. It also has to do with the identity of the place in which it is kept and presented: the Visible Display is the ideal place for VALIE EXPORT’s intervention on childhood as the identity-forming phase in life, because it is the collections and objects that shape the identity of the museum.

Photo © JMW / Sebastian Gansrigler