Wednesday, 30 July 2008


On behalf of our friends in Dublin:

Reading Bracha L. Ettinger's The Matrixial Borderspace
Two-Day Intensive, Interdisciplinary Seminar
Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 April 2009

As Part of The(e)ories: Advanced Seminars for Queer Research 2009 in Collaboration with UCD School of English, Drama and Film Studies

Seminar Description:

This two-day intensive, interdisciplinary seminar is devoted to responding to Bracha L. Ettinger's The Matrixial Borderspace (University of Minnesota Press 2006) from a range of interdisciplinary perspectives: psychoanalysis, philosophy, film studies, visual culture, feminism and queer theory. The seminar provides a unique opportunity to read a small sample of Professor Ettinger's oeuvre closely and discuss its implications for a range of fields but especially for the insights offered for considering gender and sexuality and the potential for a sustained dialogue between psychoanalysts, critical theorists and practitioners of the arts.

The first day of the seminar will feature a discussion of Sigmund Freud's paper on the uncanny together with Professor Ettinger's formulation of the matrixial before a lecture by Professor Ettinger on her current research. Day two of the seminar will be devoted to discussing The Matrixial Borderspace in more detail and the various theoretical, ethical, cultural and political questions it raises more generally. Each session will begin with four short responses by (30 mins.) by a leading expert in the area of the theme being considered, after which the chair of the session will offer a short response (10 mins.) to the presentation before opening the discussion up more generally to attendees of the seminar (50 mins.). The emphasis here will be on discussion. To further facilitate an engagement with the themes of the seminar, attendees will read one required article or book chapter for each session, which will be provided in a reading pack in advance.

Required Reading:

There are two required texts for this seminar: a copy of Sigmund Freud's paper will be provided however delegates must source a copy of Bracha Ettinger's book themselves.

1. Bracha Ettinger, The Matrixial Borderspace (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2006).

2. Sigmund Freud, 'The Uncanny' in The Uncanny, trans. Hugh Haughton (London: Penguin, 2003; first pub. 1919), pp. 121-62.

The Speaker:

Bracha Ettinger is an artist, senior clinical psychologist and practising psychoanalyst. Her artworks have been exhibited extensively and she has written a number of books and many essays on topics relating to psychoanalysis, philosophy, visual culture, feminism and ethics. She is the Marcel Duchamp Professor of Psychoanalysis and Art at the Media and Communications Division, European Graduate School (EGS), Saas-Fee. Further information about Professor Ettinger can be found here:

Description of The Matrixial Borderspace:
A groundbreaking intertwining of the philosophy of art and psychoanalytic theory.

Artist, psychoanalyst, and feminist theorist Bracha Ettinger presents an original theoretical exploration of shared affect and emergent expression, across the thresholds of identity and memory. Ettinger works through Lacan's late works, the anti-Oedipal perspectives of Deleuze and Guattari, as well as object-relations theory to critique the phallocentrism of mainstream Lacanian theory and to rethink the masculine-feminine opposition. She replaces the phallic structure with a dimension of emergence, where objects, images, and meanings are glimpsed in their incipiency, before they are differentiated. This is the matrixial realm, a shareable, psychic dimension that underlies the individual unconscious and experience.

Concerned with collective trauma and memory, Ettinger's own experience as an Israeli living with the memory of the Holocaust is a deep source of inspiration for her paintings, several of which are reproduced in the book. The paintings, like the essays, replay the relation between the visible and invisible, the sayable and ineffable; the gaze, the subject, and the other.

Table of Contents:
Foreword: Bracha's Eurydice
Judith Butler

Introduction. Femininity: Aporia or Sexual Difference?
Griselda Pollock

1. The Matrixial Gaze
2. The With-In-Visible Screen
3. Wit(h)nessing Trauma and the Matrixial Gaze
4. The Heimlich
5. Transcryptum
6. Weaving a Woman Artist with-in the Matrixial Encounter-Event

Afterword. Painting: The Voice of the Grain
Brian Massumi

Works by Bracha L. Ettinger
Publication History

Further Information:
This seminar is organised by Dr Noreen Giffney (, Michael O'Rourke ( and Dr Anne Mulhall ( For further information or to register, please contact one of the organisers. Places are limited so early registration is advised.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Dear shadow

You have a dream. You find yourself walking through Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s painting "Netherlandish Proverbs", surrounded by figures re-enacting countless proverbs, sayings and aphorisms. The scene needs decoding. Above you, a man "hangs his cloak according to the wind" (adapts his viewpoint to the current opinion), whilst his neighbour "tosses feathers into that same wind" (works fruitlessly). A third figure "gazes at the stork" (wastes his/her time). And so it goes, according to accepted wisdom.

The sun is still climbing. You become aware of the shadow that your body casts on the ground. It is indistinct, and falls towards the sun rather than away from it. As you make your way through the characters and their travails, you begin to be overwhelmed by the burden of intersubjectivity, the sheer agony and exhilaration of being alive amongst other people also living, and yet long since dead. You think about joining them, leaving the darkness behind.

The realisation dawns that you have been here before, and some familiar words ring out, seemingly sung by a group of fleet foxes, sitting watching the humans from the slopes of Tiger Mountain, just outside the frame of Bruegel the Elder’s painting…

“In the town one morning, I went
Staggering through premonitions of my death-
I don't see anybody that dear to me.

Dear shadow, alive and well,
How can the body die?
You tell me everything,
Anything true.

I don't know what I have done-
I'm turning myself to a demon.
I don't know what I have done-
I'm turning myself to a demon.”