Date of Submission
Project Advisor 1
Location: Paris, France 8th arrondissement on the fourth and top floor of an apartment building in a room facing the adjacent building and the courtyard.
Through my tall, classic Parisian windows, I watched my neighbor sit at his dining room table every morning. In the afternoon, his housekeeper took out the trash. He and his wife drank St. Pellegrino at most meals. At night, they sat down with one warm lamp on, illuminating only their left and right shoulders and the corresponding sides of their faces. Sometimes, as a break from my homework, I would pull away from my desk to look into their apartment and make eye contact with my neighbor. One morning, I decided to wave to him and he waved back. That’s how close we were: I could make eye contact across the courtyard and wave. I never met them. I lived there for 6 months.
This interaction inspired the concept for Spying on Life Itself. In Paris, I was desperately searching for connection. In my isolation, I took to watching people and enjoying my level of intimacy with them from afar. I knew that they, too, could watch me and try to get to know me from my patterns. I decided my project should imitate the space of an apartment building, with rooms and doors behind which these intimate and specific scenes were unfolding. I decided to mimic this environment by installing a door whose keyhole would be the only way to see the scene taking place. Looking is a choice and in using the door as a medium through which to view an image, I want the viewer to be aware of their part in investigating and watching, making them a part of the experience.
Spying on Life Itself explores themes of intimacy, performance and the limits of the body. I am focusing on the intimacy of pre and post performance spaces. Here, performance can mean a spectacle, as in a sports game, as well as the simple act of preparing or coming down from presenting oneself in the exterior world, such as dying one’s hair. The true intimacy is seeing the body in transition. These moments just before or after a performance are intimate in that they are meant to be either entirely private or seen by a select few﹣here there is a lack of judgment. In these moments, the body is almost always in the process of being altered or pushed to its limits in order to perform for the gaze of an external party. The body is treated in the most precious way.
This throughline led me to seek out events that rely heavily on bodily performance. One such photoshoot was the Organization of Competition Bodies (OCB) Bodybuilding competition. I met a man in line waiting to buy tickets and we ended up talking about my project. He mentioned that he had two friends performing and offered to sneak me into the backstage area of the show. I was surprised and touched by his willingness to help me with my project. Sneaking past the highschool-aged “bodyguard” of the backstage area, I was ushered into the music room of the middle school where the show was taking place. Large shiny and extremely tanned men were frantically doing push ups next to a covered harp in front of a chalkboard outlined with cutout musical notes; a bizarre contrast for sure. The men were more than willing to have me photograph them in preparation for the stage. I was let in on the tricks of the trade: a shot of honey right before going on stage makes the veins swell after not having had sugar for the months during their “cutting” portion of their bodybuilding journey. I was fascinated and touched that everyone was willing to share the ins and outs of what they do to get ready for their performance.
With every photoshoot I have done for this project, I have been amazed with how vulnerable and open the people being photographed have been with me. In staging and searching for intimate moments, I was honored to have been trusted with such personal interactions. Thank you to everyone who made this project possible.
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Gault, Lutèce Louise, "Spying on Life Itself" (2023). Senior Projects Spring 2023. 258.
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