My Body, My Gaze
“This is me. I use my own body. I use my body as a tool. As a surface. As an icon.” Meet the pioneering Scandinavian feminist, artist Kirsten Justesen, who uses her body to sculpt space.
Danish Kirsten Justesen (b.1943) uses her body as a tool in her art, but she never shows her face, because it’s too much of a personal expression, she says: “I never use my face, because I do not express things.” Instead she works with relations and interactions, setting the body against different materials, while playing on art history: “I’m basically a sculptor working with space.”
“I looked at my own body in the mirror and it reminded me of something - the pleasure of the male painters model in the 19th century. I just use my own body, it’s a monument, it does what I ask it to do - it’s getting thicker and thinner and pregnant and it’s just at my hand - and it’s my gaze.” Kirsten Justesen originally trained in classic sculpture at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts from which she graduated in 1975. The students apply by sending in some artwork, in Justesen’s case a box containing herself, naked.
Justesen was part of the avant-garde scene of the 1960s, where she became a pioneering figure within the three-dimensional modes of art that incorporate the artist's own body as artistic material. These experiments led her in the direction of the feminist art which challenged traditional value systems during the 1970s.
In this interview Justesen talks about how art history used to be about the male gaze and that “you avoid the discussion of object and subject when you use your own gaze on your own body” and that her generation had a lot of battles with conventions: “Art history is full of women without clothes - and this was the artist herself. Good. We’re getting forward.”
Justesen’s activities comprise a wide range of genres, from body art and performance art to sculpture and installation. Her later works constitute broader investigations of relationships between body, space, and language.
Kirsten Justesen was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner at 'Overgaden - Institute for Contemporary Art' in Copenhagen, Denmark in December 2013.
Camera: Klaus Elmer
Edited by: Kamilla Bruus.
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner.
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2013
Supported by Nordea-fonden