IT HURTS! Violence against Women in Art and Society

International conference on the annual theme "Violence" (in German and English)


Friday, March 31, 2023, 9:30 to 18:15 h

Library of Psychoanalysis at the Sigmund Freud Museum and via Zoom

The international conference “IT HURTS! Violence against Women in Art and Society” presents new research from an interdisciplinary perspective on the question of the representation of violence against women in art. In doing so, it addresses this issue as a fundamental social as well as global problem and sheds light on the ramifications of violence against women and their persistence over time.



(For abstracts and biographies, please click on the titles.)


Watch VIDEOS of the conference on our YouTube channel!


From 9:00  Registration

9:30  Opening and welcome by Elana Shapira and Daniela Finzi


PANEL I – Surrealism Revisited, moderation: Elana Shapira

9:45–10:15  Régine Bonnefoit (Neuchâtel), Szenen “grausamer Liebe” im Werk von Oskar Kokoschka

10:15–10:45  Dawn Adès (London), María Izquierdo: Feminist, Surrealist, Revolutionary

10:45–11:15  Discussion

11:15–11:30  Coffee break

11:30–12:00  Anna Watz (Linköping), Surrealism and Motherhood: Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning

12:00–12:30  Christina Wieder (Vienna), Transgenerational/transnational. Gewalterfahrungen von Frauen im fotografischen Werk Grete Sterns

12:30–13:00  Discussion


PANEL II – Confrontational Encounters, moderation: Daniela Finzi

14:30–15:00  Lisa Ortner-Kreil (Vienna), It Hurts ... Angriff und Verteidigung im Werk von Kiki Kogelnik

15:00–15:30  Jeannette Fischer (Zurich), Die Darstellung des weiblichen Körpers in den Performances von Marina Abramović

15:30–16:00  Discussion

16:00–16:15  Coffee break

16:15–16:45  Patricia Allmer (Edinburgh), Ruth Beckermann’s Mutzenbacher, or The Act of Reading on a Couch

16:45–17:15  Monika Pessler trifft Soli Kiani – Kunst von Frauen als Ausdruck politischen Protestes

17:15–17:45  Discussion

17:45–18:15  Closing remarks by Elisabeth Schäfer (Wien)


The first part “Surrealism Revisited” offers new insights into depictions of violent acts against women and women’s experiences of violence in Austrian and global Modernism. It includes lectures on Expressionist Oskar Kokoschka's early work, Surrealist artworks of Mexican painter María Izquierdo, the artist-couple Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning, and German émigré photographer in Argentina Grete Stern. Topics include female subjugation, women as ‘possession’, motherhood in art, and feminist alliances in the media. The questions raised explore how psychoanalytic theories were implicated in the representation of aggression, employed to come to terms with, and/or applied in developing strategies to confront violence against women in society.

The second panel “Confrontational Encounters” focuses on contemporary artists who worked during or after the second wave of feminism. Feminist authors in the 1960s and 1970s including American Betty Friedan and French Hélène Cixous granted women critical tools to engage in public debates on gender discrimination and on the roots of sexual violence. In her book Psychoanalysis and Feminism from 1974, Juliet Mitchell presented psychoanalysis as an analysis of patriarchal society. How were these approaches expressed in the artistic examination of violence against women and what artistic languages did women artists develop? The lectures examine artistic and staged encounters in the paintings of Kiki Kogelnik, in an art performance of Marina Abramović and in the current film Mutzenbacher by filmmaker Ruth Beckermann, based on a pornographic book. Topics include the relation between woman's gaze and her creative license, reclamation of the female body as an act of social protest, and the inclusion of émigré and exiled women artists’ extraterritorial perspectives on this subject in the public discourse. A talk between Monika Pessler, director of the Sigmund Freud Museum, and Iranian-Austrian multi-media artist Soli Kiani will address the subject of violence against women as integral part of decades’ long suppression of human rights in Iran. In her closing remarks, philosopher Elisabeth Schäfer will engage with the day’s presentations, tracing the relevance of relating art and psychoanalysis in the process of confronting this social trauma today.

Concept: Elana Shapira, Daniela Finzi and Monika Pessler


Conference booklet (PDF download)


Have a look at our event program.

Watch a selection of our event videos on our YouTube channel.