While many of her past series contain elements from her personal life, 'A Gaze of One’s Own', titled in reference to Virginia Woolf’s essay 'A Room of One’s Own', is her first project explicitly grounded in her own experience and in which she is, as an artist, turning her gaze on her own intimacy and body. This project takes on issues linked to the artistic and cultural representations of the female body and to the reclaiming of the gaze, against the background of her own aging and changing body.
Her work has always been informed by her extensive knowledge – or rather her remarkable assimilation – of the history of photography. While it is not possible to pinpoint a single seminal influence in her work, her images effortlessly give nods to works from Man Ray, Balthasar Burkhard, Edward Weston or Francesca Woodman, to name a few. 'A Gaze of One’s Own' is nonetheless resolutely contemporary in its approach. It retains a performative dimension that has been characteristic of significant feminist artistic practices from the 1970s onward and is equally connected to the performance of self-representation shaped by social media over the last decade, which expanded the realm of self-representation with countless tools – and the accompanying norms – to edit and reshape bodies and features.
Her project reflects on and echoes the intensity of one’s relation to one’s body in the 21st century, the need to look at it, and to craft an image of one’s own. It confronts and combines imperatives which are sometimes conflicting in this particular era: reclaiming the gaze while offering a form of self-representation. Almost over a century ago, Woolf’s argued for a literal and figurative space for female writers. At the beginning of the 21st century, Lustenberger engages in a similar process towards the emancipation of her own gaze. It is informed by, but liberated from, centuries of primarily male representations of the naked female body: ‘I photograph myself, because I cannot objectify myself.’
The transitoriness of the female body, and in particular of her own, is another central element of this work, which has brought an unexpected area of freedom. As art history has primarily been focusing on the depiction of young and conventionally beautiful bodies, the artist’s own middle-aged body is less burdened by the weight of thousands of pre-existing representations.
'A Gaze of One’s Own' thus addresses important issues tied to visibility, representation and the gaze, and it does so with a courageous vulnerability, both in terms of exposing one’s intimacy and personal relation with one’s body and in terms of adopting a performative and process-based project.
– Danaé Panchaud, Director/Curator Photoforum Pasquart