Phantom of Desire

Visions of Masochism in Art

26.04.-24.08.2003 10:00-18:00

Curated by: Peter Weibel
Co-Curator: Michael Farin, Christa Steinle, Elisabeth Fiedler

Kuratorische Assistenz: Peter Peer, Anke Orgel

Ausstellungsarchitektur: Manfred Wolff-Plottegg

Two classics from literature, “Venus in Fur” (1869) and “Psychopathia sexualis” (1886) are directly linked to Graz. The novel “Venus in Furs” is seen as a prototype for the writings of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch and his wife Wanda, as well as for masochistic phantasies in general. Although Sacher-Masoch as a person has fallen almost into oblivion, his work has gained a lasting effect. Based upon Sacher-Masoch's novel Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing, the Grazer physician (1840-1902), coined the term “masochism” in his medical standard work “Psychopathia Sexualis” (1886) as the description of a sexual disposition combining pain and lust. Since then masochism has become the subject of many analysises and studies in film, literature, philosophy, music and the fine arts which reflect this phenomenon in its manifold socio-historical contexts.


On the basis of these facts, a history of sexuality in the arts has been conceived in the form of an exhibition that follows Sacher-Masoch's influence from the end of the nineteenth century till the present. The exhibition should reflect artistic acceptability, namely how the social, political and psycho-analytical implications of masochism were received in the art world: The masochistic body, the profile of the cruel woman, dominant relationships and masochism as the explicit thematisation of power in relationships, fetish and ritual as important elements of setting a masochistic scene and masochism as a psychologically-defining category of, amongst other things, femininity. Here, art is based on the visual aspect, more exactly the visual representation of masochism. The visual representation does not only mean representation of matters sexual, but rather the whole complex of punishment and resistance, controller and victim, immersion and inversion and lust and harm should be illuminated.


Co-Curators: Michael Farin, Christa Steinle, Elisabeth Fiedler
Assistance of Curator: Peter Peer, Anke Orgel
Exhibition architectur: Manfred Wolff-Plottegg


Exhibiton Catalogue
"Phantom of Desire. Visions of Masochism in Art"

Editor: Peter Weibel
2 volumes, 477, 511 pages, numerous illustrations

belleville publishers, Munich 2003
ISBN 3-936298-24-6

English supplement: essays and texts (248 pages)



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