Last Updated on 20 Marzo 2011 by CB
Sophie Calle is a conceptual photographer whose technical support is photojournalism, the newspaper ‘s detective-work to solve political or financial crimes, as in the U.S. case of Watergate. The solutions she works at, as sleuth, are frequently the portrait of an unknown character as in the case of Address Book [at the top of the screen]. Having found the telephone register of a man who left it in a bar, Calle proceeded to telephone each one of the entries, asking the woman who answered about the man who was presumably her friend. These conversations and Calle’s projections of the man’s character—both physical and psychological— were published daily in the French newspaper Libération. Another example is A WomanVanishes, the case of a guard at Calle’s retrospective at the Paris Museum of Contemporary Art. Fascinated by Calle’s investigative procedures, the woman, Bénédicte Vincens, secretly followed some of the visitors to Calle’s exhibition in order to photograph them. After a fire had destroyed Bénédicte’s apartment on the Ile St. Louis, charring the negatives and prints of her work, the police could find no trace of her, either in the Seine River or in other houses in the neighborhood. In her work reproducing the charred remains, Calle was obviously fascinated by the unknown alter-ego who was secretly tracking her. Most recently, Calle was asked to be France’s representative at the 2007 Venice Biennale. Her entry, a work called Take Care of Yourself [Prenez Soin de Vous] was subsequently shown in Paris at the Bibliothèque Nationale. Along the tables in the main reading room many video monitors showed a variety of women reading a letter sent to Calle by a lover abruptly breaking off their relationship because he couldn’t keep his promise not to involve her in a polygamous affair. The performers of the letter are famous actresses like Jeanne Moreau or Miranda Richardson. The letter’s callous announcement of the abrupt and final end of Calle’s affair by her unseen lover, sardonically signs off, “take care of yourself.” By staging the work in the reading room lined with shelves of leather-bound volumes, the Bibliothèque’s display of “Take Care of Yourself” heightened the question of the letter’s unseen author, just as so many earlier works by Calle had done. To say “staging the work in the reading room,” is to make Take Care of Yourself sound like an Installation. Quite to the contrary, the reading of the letter from so many monitors, refers back to the shelves from which occupants of the reading room select their books. Not only this, but the work demands a reflexive reading that touches base with Calle’s own technical support. As the viewer tries to track down the letter’s author, she follows in Calle’s footsteps just as Benédicte had done before she vanished. LikeAddress Book, the work is intended to build an image of its writer. Separating this work from others like it, however, is the delicate question of whether or not Calle herself is the letter’s author. Thus, paradoxically, an artist whose entire work turns on the matter of documenting the unknown Other, might end up making a sentimentally “confessional” object, to be performed by strangers.