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The Hotel © Sophie Calle 1981
The Hotel © Sophie Calle 1981 | Image source internet

Sophie Calle

I don’t care about truth; I care about art and style and writing and occupying the wall.

Sophie Calle

Sophie Calle, born in 1953 is a French conceptual artist, installation artist, writer, and photographer. She mixes image and text to provoke an emotionally intense response typically stimulated by epic film or literature. Calle’s work is distinguished by its use of arbitrary sets of constraints and evokes the French literary movement of the 1960s known as Oulipo. Her work frequently depicts human vulnerability and examines identity and intimacy. She is recognized for her detective-like ability to follow strangers and investigate their private lives. Her photographic work often includes panels of the text of her own writing. Her most astounding works suggest human susceptibility and examine intimacy and individuality. After completing her education, she embarked on a seven-year journey. In 1979, she returned to Paris and began many projects in order to be acquainted with the people and surrounding of Paris. She soon figured that observing the actions and behavior of strangers, provides information that helps in creating their identities. This was documented as photographs. In her work, the emphasis is on the idea rather than the finished piece. She works through the roots of conceptual art. As a form of detective photography that is seen in her works, Calle met a man she saw at a party in Paris and she followed him to Venice in a disguise, photographing him. She identified the man as Henri B and the photographs were black and white, with text. The following year, The Sleepers was a project organized by Calle in which she requested 24 people to occupy her divan for eight days straight. She photographed them and served them food as well.

In 1981, she did two projects: The Shadow in which she was followed by a private detective hired by her mother at Calle’s request. The artist wanted to offer photographic proof of her own existence. In the same year, she executed The Hotel, a project in which Calle was hired in a hotel in Venice as a chambermaid where she explored objects and writings related to the guests. Address Book, 1983 was among the first projects to gain public criticism and controversy. Sophie Calle had accidentally found a telephone number diary on the street which she used for her work. She called some people from the book and derived an imaginative sketch of the diary’s owner on the basis of what people said about him. However, when the work was published, the owner of the diary who happened to be a documentary maker, Pierre Baudry warned to sue Calle for privacy invasion.

In 1986, The Blind was another eminent project by Calle. She did an interview session with blind people and asked them to share their meaning of beauty. She accompanied photographs with their responses. Sophie Calle released No Sex Last Night, a film in 1996 in collaboration with Greg Shepherd (American photographer). It was a documentation of their country cross trip in America, ending in Las Vegas in a wedding chapel. Later in 1996, she exhibited Appointment, an installation made for the Freud Museum, London. In 2002, Calle spent a night in bed that was installed on the top of the Eiffel Tower. The project was called Room with a View. In 2007, she displayed Take Care of Yourself, a piece titled after a line in a message left by her ex-partner. It was an attempt to interpret the email of break up.

In 2008, Calle contributed to an exhibition in Mains d-Oeuvres in Paris, titled Système C, un festival de coincidence. In 2009, she had an important exhibition in which many of her projects were included, in London at the Whitechapel Gallery. In 2011, True Stories, her work was installed in New Orleans. Sophie Calle is captivated by the boundary set between people’s private lives and their public lives. This inquisition led her to study behavior patterns incorporating techniques generally used by private detectives, forensic scientists, and psychologists. She also usually examines her own behavior.

Exhibitions of Calle’s work took place at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia; Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme, Paris; Paula Cooper Gallery, New York; Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium; Videobrasil, SESC Pompeia, São Paulo, Brazil; Museum of Modern Art of Bahia, Salvador, Brazil; Whitechapel Gallery, London; and the De Pont Museum of Contemporary Art, Tilburg, Netherlands. She represented France at the Venice Biennale in 2007. Landmarks, the public art program of The University of Texas at Austin, exhibited Double-Blind (1992) and archived an essay dedicated to Calle and her work on their website.

Published on February 1, 2021
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