Régine Bonnefoit: Scenes of “Cruel Love” in the Work of Oskar Kokoschka

(Lecture in German)

The theme of (sexual) violence against women runs like a thread through the early pictorial and literary work of Oskar Kokoschka (1886–1980). His first poetic work, Die träumenden Knaben (The Dreaming Youths), published in 1908, describes the awakening sexuality of a pubescent boy whose fears are discharged in dreams, metaphors for sexual union and even murder fantasies. These are themes that would hardly be conceivable without knowledge of Sigmund Freud's theories. Kokoschka's first drama Mörder, Hoffnung der Frauen (Murderer, the Hope of Women) also revolves around the theme of femicide. The male protagonist kills the woman at the end of the play and leaves the stage as the victor. The figure of the murderer has repeatedly been suspected of being influenced by Otto Weininger, whose 1903 work Geschlecht und Charakter (Sex and Character) is now considered a classic document of Viennese Modernism. Weininger's misogynistic theses can also help explain the meaning of Kokoschka’s provocative title Murderer, the Hope of Women. In his early work, Kokoschka explores a theme that also preoccupied Freud: the connection between sexuality and death, Eros and Thanatos. His prose Der weiße Tiertöter (The White Animal Slayer), which Kokoschka wrote as a sequel to The Dreaming Youths, is also about love ending in death. The first-person narrator is again a boy whose “cruel love” is for the moonwoman, whom he stabs with a knife. Kokoschka's “living together” with the doll as the image of his lost lover Alma Mahler also ends in a destructive act: a staged beheading of the fetish, which he exaggerates to a kind of catharsis.

The lecture analyses early artworks by the artist, such as The Murder of Women (1909), the illustrations for Murderer, the Hope of Women (1910), Self Portraits with a Mindless Doll (1922), etc. As has already been noted in Kokoschka research, his dealing with the doll is “received as a precursor of Surrealist doll staging”. The lecture spans the arc between Kokoschka's depictions of violence against women, theories of Freud and the Surrealists’ reception of his staging of the doll.


Régine Bonnefoit: Doctorate in art history (University of Heidelberg, 1995) and habilitation (University of Passau, 2006); research assistant at the Département des Arts graphiques des Musée du Louvre (1992–1994); research grant at the Institute of Art History in Florence (1995-1998). Awarded the Wolfgang Ratjen Prize in 1998 for “outstanding research in the field of graphic arts”. Trainee at Berlin Museums (2000–2001). University assistant at the Institute of Art History at the University of Lausanne (2001–2006). Curator at the Oskar Kokoschka Foundation in Vevey (2006–2016). After a professorship at the Swiss National Science Foundation, she was appointed full professor of contemporary art history and museology at the University of Neuchâtel. Curator and co-curator of numerous exhibitions.

Dawn Adès: María Izquierdo: Feminist, Surrealist, Revolutionary

(Lecture in English)

The theme of violence against women runs throughout the paintings of María Izquierdo (1902–1955), from her early allegories to the late double self-portrait with severed head, Dream and Foreboding (1947). It is, in a sense, over-determined, in that it has multiple sources and references, including personal history, the immediate context of the Mexican Revolution and its aftermath, and historical depictions of violence and cruelty. Her allegories, which were greatly admired by French poet and artist Antonin Artaud, are unique in their aim to create new myths treating the subjects of female subjugation and resistance, and will be the focus of this presentation.


Dawn Adès is Professor Emerita at the University of Essex, a Fellow of the British Academy, a former trustee of Tate and of the National Gallery, Professor of the History of Art at the Royal Academy and was made CBE in 2013 for her services to higher education. She has curated or co-curated many exhibitions in the UK and internationally over the past forty years, including Dada and Surrealism Reviewed (1978); Art in Latin America (1989); the Salvador Dalí centenary at the Palazzo Grassi, Venice (2004); Undercover Surrealism: Georges Bataille and Documents, (with Simon Baker) Hayward Gallery (2006); and Dalí/Duchamp at the Royal Academy (2017). Apart from the catalogues of these and other exhibitions, publications include Photomontage (1976, revised 1986 and 2022), Marcel Duchamp (with Cox & Hopkins, 1999 and 2022) and Selected Writings on Art and Anti-Art (2015). Her research on Dada and Surrealism has focussed increasingly on the women artists and poets associated with these movements, with publications on Hannah Höch, Mina Loy, María Izquierdo, Frida Kahlo, Leonora Carrington and Claude Cahun.

Anna Watz: Surrealism and Motherhood: Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning

(Lecture in English)

In Surrealism, the figure of the mother often serves as an exemplar of bourgeois and religious propriety and repressive sexual morality. In addition to symbolizing social decorum and sexual purity, the mother in Surrealist art or literature also frequently invokes psychoanalytic associations to castration and engulfment. The many violations of maternal figures in Surrealist art thus operate along two axes at once: on the one hand, they function as an attack on repressive norms circumscribing both male and female sexuality; on the other, they might be interpreted as a disavowal of and revenge enacted on the mother’s body for its perceived castrative threat.

The work of Max Ernst (1891–1976), an avid reader of psychoanalytic theory, is replete with references to castration and parental punishment as well as mocking assaults on Catholic sexual morality. His 1926 painting The Blessed Virgin Chastises the Infant Jesus before Three Witnesses is a case in point; the defilement of the image of the Virgin Mother functions here as a rallying cry against the repressive doctrine of sexual purity propagated by the church. My presentation will juxtapose a reading of Ernst’s representations of motherhood (in The Blessed Virgin and other works) with an analysis of a series of works invoking maternity by his later partner, Dorothea Tanning (1910–2012). Tanning’s painting Maternity (1946–47), for instance, portrays motherhood as a state of isolation and distress. Thus, while Ernst and many other Surrealists depicted violence directed at the figure of the mother, Tanning’s canvas focuses on the social and coercive violence propelled by what Adrienne Rich would later call the patriarchal “Institution of Motherhood.” The final part of my presentation will shift focus to Tanning’s work of the 1960s and 1970s, which, I suggest, approaches the theme of maternity from a revisionary psychoanalytic perspective. In my reading, this body of work elaborates a feminist critique of cultural representations of maternity as castrative, abject and deserving of violent rejection or punishment – a revision that resonates with the writing of contemporaneous psychoanalytic feminists, who similarly sought to rewrite what they saw as the phallocentric underpinnings of Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis.


Anna Watz is Associate Professor of English at Linköping University, Sweden. She is the author of Angela Carter and Surrealism: ‘A Feminist Libertarian Aesthetic’ (Routledge, 2016) and editor of Surrealist Women’s Writing: A Critical Exploration (Manchester University Press, 2020) and A History of the Surrealist Novel (Cambridge University Press, 2023). She has published extensively on the work of Leonora Carrington and Dorothea Tanning and she is currently completing a monograph on the intersection of Surrealist women’s art and writing and theories of écriture féminine.

Christina Wieder: Transgenerational/Transnational. Women's Experiences of Violence in the Photographic Work of Grete Stern

(Lecture in German)

The German-Argentinean photographer Grete Stern (1904–1999) contributed significantly to the popularization and dissemination of psychoanalysis in Argentina in the 1940s and 1950s through her work. In 1933, she fled from Germany to London, and in 1936 she emigrated to Argentina. There she published photomontages (1948–1951) in the column “El psicoanálisis te ayudará” (Psychoanalysis will help you) of the women's magazine Idilio, which were dedicated to the dream worlds of her readers. These pictures appeared (bi-)weekly as a supplement to the textual dream analysis and a glossary of psychoanalytical terms. The column was expanded to include a visual and feminist interpretation of dreams. Stern's approach was influenced particularly by two female analysts whom she had met during her exile in London and later in Buenos Aires: Paula Heimann, who practised in London, and Marie Langer, who emigrated to Argentina and devoted herself intensively to the subject of motherhood. Stern's photographic work not only deals with her own experience of violence during flight and exile, but also with experiences of structural violence through the marginalisation of women during Peronism and their banishment to private space through a forced motherhood role. What particularly distinguishes these photomontages, however, are their aesthetic and literary references, testifying for women's transgenerational and transnational experience of violence.

Stern's visualisation of dreams thus form a platform to talk about the taboo subject of violence against women on the one hand, and to forge feminist alliances that transcend regional as well as temporal boundaries on the other. The technique of photomontage offers special potential for this and forms a central artistic procedure that allows us to link transnational experiences of violence during her escape with regional ones, such as the state-imposed role of the mother. The photomontage further offers to link the violence experienced in the present under Peronism with women's experiences of violence that transcend generations, such as witch burnings, forced marriages or other forms of state control of female bodies. My presentation will consider Stern's dream photomontages in relation to the tension between aesthetics and psychoanalysis and, in particular, investigate the different dimensions of violence against women, by addressing their transnational and transgenerational character.


Christina Wieder is a historian and cultural scientist. She completed her doctorate with the thesis “Visual Transformations. The Exile of the Jewish Artists Grete Stern, Hedy Crilla and Irena Dodal” at the Department of Contemporary History at the University of Vienna. She was a research assistant at the Department of Contemporary History's key research area Visual Contemporary and Cultural History and a lecturer at the Institute of Jewish Studies at the University of Vienna, a junior fellow at the International Research Centre for Cultural Studies (IFK) Vienna as well as a visiting researcher at the Institute for Cultural Studies at Humboldt University in Berlin, at the Instituto de Artes del Espectáculo of the Universidad de Buenos Aires and at the Cinémathèque française. In 2020/21 she was a university assistant at the Department for Romance Philology at the University of Vienna, working on discourses of love, sexuality and family in the anarchist women's movement in Spain and Argentina. She is currently a research assistant in the project “Sonderfall Angewandte, University of Applied Arts under Austrofascism, National Socialism and in the Post-War Period at the Institute Art Collection and Archive of the University of Applied Arts Vienna”.

Lisa Ortner-Kreil: It Hurts ... Attack and Defence in the Work of Kiki Kogelnik

(Lecture in German)

Kiki Kogelnik (1935–1997) was an artist who lived and worked internationally. Her cross-media work includes painting, drawing, sculpture, objects, ceramics and performative practices. Kogelnik's themes are astonishingly topical: the achievements and excesses of consumer society, the advantages and disadvantages of technological progress, medicine and diagnostics, and time and again the (female) body and its implications. After her studies at the University of Applied Arts and the Academy of Fine Arts, Kogelnik went to New York in 1962. There she first produced paintings, later also objects made of vinyl, the so-called “Hangings”, which were clearly influenced by Pop Art, though she never considered herself as part of this movement. From the 1970s onwards, a feminist and militant tone broke through in Kogelnik's work: For her “Women Paintings”, large-format, full-figure portraits of women, the artist oriented herself on photographs from fashion magazines, which she restaged for her paintings: Exalted poses and high fashion merge and make the female body appear as a fetish. From 1974 onwards, a latent hint of violence emerges with the painting series It Hurts. Hammer, scissors and knife attack the grey, white and black female bodies, but at the same time seem to be available for her defence. The scissors serve the artist both as a working instrument – for creating her so-called cut-outs, which she uses in paintings and wall hangings – and as a weapon. In Womens Lib, a work from 1971, the artist presents herself frontally and confidently, holding an oversized pair of scissors in her hands with her legs open parallel to her own. At her feet are a multitude of cut-out silhouettes of bodies. The presence of violence and the ways in which Kogelnik's pictorial protagonists confront it with tools of menace and defence are the focus of the lecture, which will also feature a series of previously unpublished images and texts. The aim is to show how Kogelnik addresses physical and psychological aggression in her work and what are her chosen visual strategies of self-empowerment and resistance to counter them.


Lisa Ortner-Kreil is an art historian and literary scholar and has been curator at the Bank Austria Kunstforum Wien since 2013. Previously, she worked at the Albertina Vienna and the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels. She has curated internationally acclaimed exhibitions, including Gerhard Richter: Landscape (2020/2021, together with Hubertus Butin and Cathérine Hug); Man Ray (2018), and Martin Kippenberger: XYZ (2016). She is the editor of numerous publications on Modern and Contemporary art, a member of several art juries and an adjunct lecturer at the University of Applied Arts Vienna. In 2020, together with Barbara Horvath, she founded the contemporary art initiative “art hoc projects”, which aims to bring international contemporary art to atypical venues in order to open up for the art new spaces and audiences.

Jeannette Fischer: The Representation of the Female Body in Marina Abramović's Performances

(Lecture in German)

In March 2010, Marina Abramović sat motionless and uninterrupted for 90 days during the museum's opening hours (eight hours a day on weekdays and ten hours a day on weekends), facing visitors, looking them in the eye and focusing her attention on them. Marina Abramović subsequently called this performance “Mission Impossible”, because it demanded everything of her.

I explore the question of how Marina Abramović depicts the female body in this performance, how she thematises violence against the female body, a violence that no one notices, and which is not even discussed. On the basis of emotional transference that can be observed through the reactions of the visitors – many of them are crying while sitting opposite her – questions arise: Who is crying, about what, and why right now? It seems that the female body is presented as a projection field for many feelings, while the body itself is barred from everything it needs: eating, going to the toilet, chatting, drinking, moving and much more. To what extent does the female body have to take on itself this violence in order to serve the catharsis of another?


Jeannette Fischer practised as a Freudian psychoanalyst in Zurich for 30 years. She is intensively involved with the question of violence, power, and powerlessness. She curated exhibitions and made two documentary films on this subject. For years, she has been guiding visitors through art exhibitions “from a psychoanalytic perspective” and has appeared as an interview partner in films about art. In 2018, her books Psychoanalyst Meets Marina Abramović and Angst – vor ihr müssen wir uns fürchten were released. In spring 2021 her book Hass was published and in spring 2022 Psychoanalytikerin trifft Helene und Wolfgang Beltracchi.

Patricia Allmer: Ruth Beckermann’s Mutzenbacher, or The Act of Reading on a Couch

(Vortrag auf Englisch)

Ruth Beckermann’s most recent film, Mutzenbacher (2022), focuses on “Austria’s most infamous piece of child-pornography” (Clemens Ruthner). Published in 1906, anonymously written, but widely credited to Felix Salten (creator of Bambi), and banned in Austria until 1971, the book nevertheless significantly influenced the sexual socialisation of men and women in Austria and beyond. Beckermann’s film, a mixture (as the director notes) “of field experiment and fiction”, is based on a casting call for men aged between 16 and 99 for a proposed film of the novel. Shot in a former coffin factory, the film depicts men, sometimes alone, or in pairs, or groups of three or four, reading and discussing short passages from the book.

This paper will argue that the film constructs around the central prop of the pink couch (inviting analogies with both Freudian psychoanalysis and the Hollywood casting couch) a range of “polymorphously perverse” relations, entanglements, echoes, proximities, continuities, and ruptures between current and historical Austrian national and cultural fantasies and histories of violence against women. On another level, it will be argued, the film continues Beckermann’s project – evident in films such as Jenseits des Krieges (1996) and her installation The Missing Image (2015) – of interrogating “missing images”, focusing on audience responses to and participation in the cultural assimilation of highly problematic narratives through processes of acceptance, rationalisation, sublimation, and conventionalisation. These notions are investigated in Mutzenbacher through a focus on the male reader, pivoting around two key processes: “acting” (from the theatrical performance and the sexual act to taking action and to acting upon one’s phantasies), and “reading” (interpreting narratives, but also performative and bodily aspects of the act of reading). In doing so, Beckermann offers ambivalent, troubling insights into the covert intersections between reading, performing masculinity, and elements of Austria’s cultural propensities to violent misogyny.


Patricia Allmer is Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art History at the University of Edinburgh. Her many books include The Traumatic Surreal: Germanophone Women Artists and Surrealism after the Second World War (Manchester UP, 2022), René Magritte (Reaktion Press, 2019), Lee Miller: Photography, Surrealism, and Beyond (Manchester UP, 2016); and the edited collection Intersections: Women Artists/Surrealism/Modernism (Manchester UP, 2016).

She curated the prize-winning Angels of Anarchy: Women Artists and Surrealism (Manchester Art Gallery/Prestel, 2009), and has co-curated major exhibitions including Taking Shots: The Photography of William S. Burroughs (2014, Prestel) at The Photographers’ Gallery, London. She has contributed essays to many international exhibition catalogues including Surrealism Beyond Borders (The Metropolitan Museum of Art and TATE Gallery, 2022), Fantastic Women (Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt/Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, and Peggy Guggenheim: The Last Dogaressa (Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, 2019).

Monika Pessler Meets Soli Kiani – Women's Art as Expression of Political Protest

(Talk in German)

Iranian-Austrian artist Soli Kiani, who expresses the suppression of human rights in Iran in her powerful works in different media and Monika Pessler, director of the Sigmund Freud Museum and art historian, whose exhibitions interrogate the meaning and possibilities of intervention of art in our society, discuss topics including the social and political impact of contemporary art, autobiographical perspectives, dealings with the subject of reclaiming the female body, and Iranian cultural identification in the Diaspora.

“How bad the loss of control over one’s life, body or daily routine can be, we have all experienced more or less since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, regardless of nation, color, religion or gender. But what if this loss of control is not caused by a global pandemic and yet happens completely involuntarily? What is it like to grow up from birth in a country, a society or family that is caught up in ideologies that de facto dictate to you how to behave in every area of daily life? If it is laid down by law, what are the consequences of not following these rules or daring to resist them? The feeling that you don’t have the air to breathe becomes a permanent state! In this situation, loss of control and freedom take on a different dimension and value! I deal with this issue in my work.” (Soli Kiani, December 2022)


Soli Kiani, 1981 born in Shiraz, Iran; lives and works in Vienna since 2000; 2007-2012 she studied Painting, Animation Film and Tapestry at the University of Applied Arts Vienna, Exhibitions include Bank Austria Kunstforum: tresor, Ossian / Rebillion (Vienna), Galerie Sophia Vonier: Blurred Borders (Salzburg), FOTO WIEN: 2=1 (Wien), Neue Galerie Graz: Ladies and Gentlemen / Das fragile feministische Wir (Graz), House of Losing Control: Promising Paradise (Vienna Art Week), Sotheby’s (Artist Quarterly): Erziehung / Tarbiat (Vienna), Chances-Changes-Rituals (Vienna Art Week), Strabag Kunstforum: Ausgeschlossen / Mahroum (Vienna) und Kunsthaus Horn: A Matter of Form.

Monika Pessler studied art history and curation for museum and exhibition contexts at the Danube University Krems Department for Arts and Cultural Studies. In 2014, Pessler received her master’s degree in organizational development from the IFF, Alpen Adria Universität in Carinthia. She has also worked as a curator at what is now known as the Museum of Modern Art, Klagenfurt as well as at the “steirischer herbst” contemporary art festival, and served director of the Austrian Friedrich and Lillian Kiesler Private Foundation from 2003 to 2013. Pessler has been the director of the Sigmund Freud Museum in Vienna since 2014. Her additional engagements extend to wide-ranging exhibition activities, lectures, and publications on contemporary art production, architecture, museum organization and development.

Elisabeth Schäfer: Closing remarks

Elisabeth Schäfer is a philosopher affiliated to the Department of Philosophy at the University of Vienna, where she teaches since 2010, and the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna where she currently holds a Postdoc-Position in the course of the FWF PEEK research project “Performing Primal Communism” [AR 568]. Her main research and teaching areas include: Deconstruction, Queer-Feminist Philosophy, Écriture féminine, Writing as Artistic Research, Performance Philosophy. She continuously realizes lectures, lecture performances, interventions etc.

Elana Shapira: Moderation

Elana Shapira is a cultural and art historian; She lectures at the University of Vienna, at the Central European University, and at University of Applied Arts Vienna. She is a specialist in the study of Viennese Modernism. In her current research she focuses on life and work of women artists and architects in Austria and beyond. Shapira has organized international symposiums and workshops on the subjects of women designers and architects, émigrés and cultural transfer, and Jews and cultural identity in Central European Modernism. She co-edited with Daniela Finzi the anthology Freud and the Émigré (2020). Her forthcoming anthology co-edited with Anne-Katrin Rossberg is Gestalterinnen. Frauen, Design und Gesellschaft im Wien der Zwischenkriegszeit (2023).

Daniela Finzi: Moderation

Daniela Finzi is a literary and cultural scholar. She has worked as a research assistant at the Sigmund Freud Museum since 2009 and has been the research director and board member of the Sigmund Freud Foundation since 2016. She is on the board of the cultural studies association aka – Arbeitskreis Kulturanalyse, a member of the editorial board of aka/Texte (Turia+Kant) and the co-editor of the Vienna University Press series “Sigmund Freud's Works. Viennese Interdisciplinary Commentaries”. Her most recent publications include the catalogue FREUD. Berggasse 19 – Origin of Psychoanalysis (Hatje Cantz, 2020) and, together with Elana Shapira, the anthology Freud and the Émigré (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020).