Bracha L. Ettinger

Bracha L. Ettinger is an international artist, painter, photographer, theorist and psychoanalyst.

Ettinger is based in Paris and Tel Aviv and working mainly in Europe in art as well as academic fields.

Born in 1952 in Tel Aviv, she received her M.A. in Clinical Psychology from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1976. She then moved to London and studied, trained and worked between 1976 and 1979 at the London Centre for Psychotherapy, the Tavistock Clinic and the Philadelphia Association with R. D. Laing. She returned to Israel in 1979 and worked at Shalvata Hospital. Ettinger then decided to dedicate herself to painting and moved to Paris, where she lived and worked from 1981 to 2003. She received a D.E.A. in Psychoanalysis from the University of Paris VII in 1987, and a Ph.D. in Aesthetics of Art from the University of Paris VIII in 1996.

Her paintings eventually aroused the interest of different curators in French museums, and she had One-person exhibitions at the Pompidou Centre in 1987 and at the Museum of Calais in 1988. In 1995 she had a One-person exhibition at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, and in 1996 she participated in the Contemporary art section of "Face à l'Histoire. 1933-1996" exhibition in the Pompidou Centre. In 2000 she had a Retrospective at the Centre for Fine Arts (The Palais des Beaux Arts) in Brussels, and in 2001 a Solo exhibition at the Drawing Center in New York. In parallel to working as artist Bracha Ettinger continued to train as psychoanalyst with Françoise Dolto, Piera Auglanier and Jacques-Alain Miller, and has become one of the most influential contemporary French feminists. Around 1988 Ettinger began her Conversation and Photography project. Her personal art notebooks have become source for theoretical articulations, and her art has inspired art historians (among them the distinguished art historian Griselda Pollock) and philosophers (like Jean-François Lyotard and Christine Buci-Glucksmann) who dedicated a number of essays to her painting.

Even though she was still based mainly in Paris, Ettinger was Visiting Professor (1997-1998) and then Research Professor (1999-2004) in Psychoanalysis and Aesthetics at the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds. Since 2001 she has also been Visiting Professor in Psychoanalysis and Aesthetics at the AHRC Centre for Cultural Analysis, Theory and History (now CentreCATH.) Bracha L. Ettinger has partly returned to Israel in 2003, keeping studios in both Paris and Tel Aviv ever since, and became a lecturer at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem until 2006.

Ettinger is considered now to be a prominent figure among both the French painters' and the Israeli art's scenes. Ettinger's art was recently analysed at length in the book Women Artists at the Millennium and in Griselda Pollock's Encounters in the Virtual Feminist Museum.

Some of her specific academic fields of endeavor are Feminist psychoanalysis, Art, Philosophy of Aesthetics, Philosophy of Ethics, the Gaze, Sexual Difference and Gender studies, Jacques Lacan, the feminine, early (including pre-birth) psychic impressions, pre-maternal and maternal subjectivity.


Until 1992, Bracha Ettinger's principal artwork consisted of drawing and mixed media on paper as well as Notebooks (Art books). Since 1992, apart from continual Notebooks' work, most of her artwork consists of mixed media and oil paintings, with the series "Matrix - Family Album", "Autistwork" and "Eurydice". Her paintings, photos, drawings and notebooks have been exhibited extensively in major museums of contemporary art across the world, such as Pompidou Centre and the Stedelijk Museum. The art historian and cultural analyst Griselda Pollock has dedicated since the beginning of the 1990s a continuous research to Ettinger's painting and drawing, from the perspectives of Art history, Modern and Postmodern art, Jewish History after the Shoah, Psychoanalytic theory and Feminism.

Group exhibitions

Among the venues Ettinger presented in:

Solo exhibitions

Ettinger's One-person exhibitions and Duo exhibitions (Selection):


Bracha L. Ettinger is a regarded theoretician, working at the intersection of human subjectivity, feminine sexuality, psychoanalysis, art and aesthetics. She is a senior clinical psychologist, and a practicing psychoanalyst. Her artistic practice and her articulation, since 1985, of what has become known as the matrixial theory of trans-subjectivity have transformed contemporary debates in contemporary art, psychoanalysis, women studies and cultural studies. Bracha L. Ettinger is member of the Tel Aviv Institute for Contemporary Psychoanalysis (TAICP), the New Lacanian School (NLS) and the World Association of Psychoanalysis (AMP / WAP). For Ettinger, the Freudian attitude to psychoanalysis is crucial as it emphasizes the phantasmatic value of materials that arise during regression. She claims that in a similar way to which, when seduction is assigned to the paternal figure during regression it is recognized in most cases as a result of the therapeutic process itself and is worked-trough accordingly: without therapist's father-blaming and without a resulting father-hate, therapists must likewise realize that during regression phantasmatic maternal "not-enoughness" appears and must also be recognized as the result of the process itself and be worked-through without mother-hating that she considers as contributing to a "psychotization" of the subject and a block to the passage from rage to sorrow and compassion. To be able to recognize the phantasmatic status of the psychic material arizing during therapy, the Lacanian concepts of Symbolic, Imaginary and Real are useful to her. The idea of a corpo-Real is a part of her symboliseation of a new feminine psychic zone (the matrixial, the womb as time space of psychic encounter-event), in both male and female subjects, and of the feminine-matrixial sexual difference. Thus, even if Ettinger critics the Freudian and Lacanian analysis of the feminine she considers herself as post or neo Freudian and Lacanian, who elaborates the feminine in continuity to these psychoanalysts.

Psychoanalytic theory

Major concepts

Ettinger is the initiator of the Matrixial Trans-subjectivity theory (or simply "The Matrixial") and the author of the concepts: subjectivity as encounter, matrixial gaze, matrixial time, matrixial space, co-poiesis, borderlinking, borderspacing, co-emergence in differentiating and differenciating, transconnectivity, matrixial com-passion, primary compassion, compassionate hospitality, wit(h)nessing, co-fading, severality, matrixial transformational potentiality, archaic m/Other, fascinance, encounter-event, besideness, primal Mother-phantasies of Not-enoughness, Devouring and Abandonment, empathy within compassion, empathy without compassion, seduction into life, and metramorphosis. Ettinger, a Freudian scholar, follows the late Lacan, Levinas, "Object-relations" theory and Deleuze-Guattari and also critiques them, reformulating subject and feminine difference.

The early theory: from 1985 through the 1990s

Ettinger had suggested that pre-natal impressions trans-connected to the phantasmatic and traumatic real of the pregnant becoming-mother form the primary phase and position of the human psyche. "I" and "non-I", without rejection and without symbiotic fusion, conjointly inscribe memory traces that are dispersed asymmetrically but in a trans-subjective mode. Trans-subjective mental and affective unconscious "strings", connecting the prenatal emerging subject to the archaic m/Other, open unconscious routes ("feminine" in both males and females) that enable subjectivizing processes all throughout life whenever a new matrixial encounter-event takes place. The matrixial encounter-event forms specific aesthetical and ethical accesses to the Other. This allows new understanding of trans-generational transmission, trauma and artistic processes. Ettinger formulates the woman(girl)-to-woman(mother) difference as the first sexual difference for females to be viewed first of all according to the matrixial parameters. According to Ettinger, in parallel but also before expressions of abjection (Julia Kristeva) or rejection (Freud on Narcissism) of the other, primary compassion and fascinance (which are unconscious psychic affective accesses to the other, and which join reattunement and differentiating-in-jointness by borderlinking) occur. The combination of fascinance ad primary compassion doesn't enter the economy of attraction and rejection; it has particular forms of eros and of resistance that can inspire the political sphere and reach action and speech without entering any political institutional organization. The infant's primary compassion is a proto-ethical psychological means that joins the aesthetical fascinance and creates a feel-knowing that functions at best within maternal (and also parental) compassionate hospitality. Ettinger calls for the recognition of the matrixial dimension in the transferential relationships in psychoanalysis that entails besideness to archaic parental figures rather than their exclusion, and sees in the trans-subjectivity a distinct dimension, different from, and supplementary to "inter-subjectivity" and "self" psychology. Her most prominent and comprehensive book regarding this theory is "The Matrixial Borderspace" (reprint of essays from 1994-1999) published in French in 1999 and in English in 2006, but her most recent concepts are mainly elaborated in the different essays printed in 2005-2006.

The theory in the 2000s

Her more recent theoretical work centers around the spiritual in art and ethics, and, in the domain of psychoanalysis, around the idea that three kinds of phantasy (that she names Mother-phantasies) should be recognized, when they appear in a state of regression aroused by therapy itself, as primal: Mother-phantasies of Not-enoughness, Devouring and Abandonment. Their misrecognition in psychoanalysis (and analytical therapy) leads to catastrophic blows to the matrixial daughter-mother tissue and hurts the maternal potentiality of the daughter herself, in the sense that attacking the "non-I" is always also attacking the "I" that dwells inside an "I"-and-"non-I" trans-subjective feminine tissue. Contributing to Self psychoanalysis after Heinz Kohut, Ettinger also articulated the difference between "empathy without compassion" and "empathy within compassion", claiming that the analyst's empathy without compassion harms the matrixial psychic tissue of the analysand while empathy within compassion leads to creativity and to the broadening of the ethical horizon. Ettinger explains how by empathy (toward the patient's complaints) without compassion (toward the patient's surrounding past and present family figures) the therapist "produces" the patient's real mother as a "ready-made monster-mother" figure, that serves to absorb complaints of all kinds, and thus, a dangerous split is created between the "good" mother figure (the therapist) and a "bad" mother figure (the real mother). This split is destructive in both internal and external terms, since the I and non-I are transconnected, and the split hate turns into a self-hate in the woman/daughter web. A conception where "non-I" is thus trans-connected to the "I", has deep ethical implications as well as far-reaching sociological and political implications that have been further developed by Griselda Pollock in order to rethink Modern and Postmodern art and History.

Other Activities

Since 2005 Ettinger is an activist member in Physicians for Human Rights (PHR-Israel). Dr. Ettinger contributes to the organization as a clinical psychologist, attending patients in needed areas in the Palestinian occupied territories. Ettinger is a strong critic of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

Bracha Ettinger is also famous for her portraits' photography, taken in the context of conversation projects. Some of her portraits, like those of Jean-Francois Lyotard, Joyce McDougall, Edmond Jabès, Emmanuel Lévinas, Robert Doisneau and Yeshayahu Leibowitz appear in several official publications and collections.


Ettinger is author of several books and more than eighty psychoanalytical essays elaborating different aesthetical, ethical,psychoanalytical and artistic aspects of the matrixial. She is co-author of volumes of conversation with Emmanuel Levinas, Edmond Jabès, Craigie Horsfield, Felix Guattari and Christian Boltanski. Her book Regard et Espace-de-Bord Matrixiels (essays 1994-1999) appeared in French in 1999 (La lettre volée), and has been published in English as The Matrixial Borderspace (2006, University of Minnesota Press, edited by Brian Massumi and forwarded by Judith Butler and Griselda Pollock). Ettinger is one of the leading intellectuals associated with contemporary French feminism and feminist psychoanalytical thought alongside Julia Kristeva and Luce Irigaray. The journal Theory Culture & Society dedicated an issue to her work [TC&S, Vol.21, n.1] in 2004.

Recent Publications

Selected Publications

Bibliography - Selected publications on Ettinger's work


See also

External links

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