This essay reads the work of two experimental feminist video and performance artists in the 1960s and ’70s (Yoko Ono and VALIE EXPORT) alongside concurrent transformations taking place within their urban landscapes, in particular the widespread emergence of pornographic media arcades. The sets of practices examined here are situated within mutually implicated urban economies, systems of exchange that were undergoing unprecedented renegotiation during this period. Within the ecosystem of the 1960s metropolis, public sexuality served as a mobile force that shifted the aesthetics and traffic of city life. Mapping these shifts sheds new light on the material conditions that engendered feminist approaches to media, performance, and site specificity. Resonant between each phenomenon is a burgeoning affective economy that rewrote the architectures of commerce in the city, creating entirely new systems of service labor and amplifying the circulation of images, particularly images of women, as privileged commodities. Reexamining Ono's and EXPORT's performances in this context, this essay suggests that vulnerability and risk provide artistic and political strategies for negotiating shifting cultural terrain.
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