Woman-Other-Thing, n°12, 1990–1993

Bracha Lichtenberg Ettinger is a practicing psychoanalyst as well as an artist and feminist. She has long recognized Duchampian aesthetics of transference and telepathy within her own artwork and both art and psychoanalysis in general. Her unique concept of matrixial borderlinks is interwoven with her work in the zone between affect and semiotics, and is accompanied by the experience of telepathy. She argues that Duchamp brought to aesthetics the uncanny qualities of Freudian transference. Ettinger defines telepathy as accompanying other affective phenomena that arise both within transference and viewing artwork. Ettinger locates empathic, telepathic transference in Duchampian and Deleuzian aesthetics, via her concept of matrixial1 borderspace.2 Duchamp and Ettinger recognise the importance of ‘psychic transgression … [and] its irruption in the form of telepathy mysterious and mystical,’ to deliver ‘inter-subjective transference relationships to the artistic sphere, and to have them intersect with aesthetic experience.’3 Ettinger show how the ‘artist and the viewer transform the artwork and are transformed by it in different-yet-connected ways.’4 They set up ‘a kind of aesthetic osmosis between the artist and the viewer via the artwork.’5



  1. Bracha Lichtenberg-Ettinger’s term matrix, and matrixial, is not considered as outside the symbolic (the womb being the primary meaning of the word matrix) but in fact as a partial subject and ‘as a symbol of the recognisable traces of sub-symbolic operations’. See: Lichtenberg-Ettinger, 1994, p. 42. This text also discusses matrix as symbol minus phallus and the matrix as I and non-I within a shared borderspace. It asserts the need to move against Lacan’s definition of the phallus as symbolic and sexual difference with only one signifier, the phallus (lacking or not lacking). This shift does not require the replacement of the phallus with the matrix, but a shift within the symbolic so that our view of the symbolic is enhanced and augmented. See: Lichtenberg-Ettinger, 1994, pp. 45, 49, 57.
  2. ‘Affective phenomena like admiration, amazement, empathy, anxiety and awe which are hidden inside the patient’s readiness for transference, as well as closely related phenomena like wonder, dread, compassion and again empathy (and even telepathy), which are hidden in the psychoanalyst’s tendency for countertransference, also arise in viewing art, as if an object becomes a partial subject and communicates with us. Shared, exchanged and diffracted …, these affects attract and diffuse aesthetic matrixial threads and participate in the artwork’s potential for hurting and healing.’ Lichtenberg-Ettinger, 1997. See also: Lichtenberg-Ettinger, 2002, p. 229.
  3. Lichtenberg-Ettinger, 2005, p. 211.
  4. Lichtenberg-Ettinger, 2005, p. 211.
  5. Lichtenberg-Ettinger, 2005, p. 211; Marcel Duchamp, Duchamp du signe (Paris: Flammarion, 1975) 188-89.