Unspeakable Acts: Women, Art and Sexual Violence in the 1970s by Nancy Princenthal


In an iconic 1989 silkscreen, Barbara Kruger claimed that “Your Body is a Battleground.” These words equally apply to the subjects of Unspeakable Acts, a text by award-winning author Nancy Princenthal that surveys the work of 2nd -Wave Feminist artists who critiqued sexual violence through their art. Treating the body as a site of social and political intervention, the seven artists featured—Yoko Ono, Ana Mendieta, Marina Abramovic´, Adrian Piper, Suzanne Lacy, Nancy Spero, and Jenny Holzer—collectively positioned performance as a key feminist mode. Many of these artists continue to practice, and their earlier works hold special resonance in the context of #Metoo. 

About the Author

Nancy Princenthal is a New York–based writer. A former senior editor of Art in America, where she remains a contributing editor, she has also written for the New York TimesParkett, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She is currently on the faculty of the MFA art writing program at the School of Visual Arts. Her previous book, Agnes Martin, won 2016 PEN/ Jacqueline Bograd Weld award for biography.


Unspeakable Acts is an important and urgent book. Princenthal’s trenchant, honest, complex exploration of the radical representations of sexual violence in the 1970s delineates the upheaval of implicit assumptions about rape, bodies, silence and speech in particular works by individual artists in light of their broader artistic and political meanings and lasting consequences. I read it with breathless, captive attention.”
Siri Hustvedt, author of "The Blazing World and Memories of the Future

Cloth 304 pgs., 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.4 inche