Sophie Calle
France, 1953
Other's people's stories are often all the more seductive the less they have to do with us. The anonymity of the other seems to encourage a certain sympathy towards her condition, habits and ways of seeing the world. Such an attitude is one we rarely adopt when the person in question is someone closer to us. Sophie Calle tells the stories of others, people she rarely knows, but whom she observes, follows or investigates. She noses around in their lives, stalks them in the street, rummages among their things, trawls their diaries, gossips with their friends. She asks, inquires and betrays details confined to what is usually understood as private life. Manufacturing stories and subverting the boundaries between private and public, between what is art and what is not, are two of the recurrent axes around which Calle's work is structured. For example, in one of her first pieces, Les Dormeurs (1979), she invites various strangers to her house to sleep in her bed. Whilst they are asleep, she watches and photographs them. When they wake up, she interviews them. In her habit of following people in the street, she goes as far as Venice (in Suite Vénetienne, 1980) on the trail of a perfect stranger. She also photographs him and notes down his movements. In Le Détective (1981) she gets her mother to hire a detective to follow and photograph her. In Les Aveugles (1986), she asks people who have been blind from birth what their image of beauty is. And lastly, in L'Absence, 1991, she asks the guards and workers at a museum from which some pieces have been stolen to describe the missing works. "Every work by Sophie Calle," claims her friend Hervé Guibert," is a rigorous illustration of a basic idea, subtle or explosive, twisted, luminous, plucked out of nowhere." In her first full-length feature film, No Sex Last Night (1992), Calle becomes the object of her own investigation, her own other. However, while she is taking herself to pieces emotionally, she puts herself back together again. In a photograph from the series "Les Autobiographies" (1992), closely linked to the film, she writes: "Shortly after our separation I suggested to Greg that he take the souvenir photo of that ritual. He agreed." In that way she creates a story of falling in and out of love, whose sourness and sense of humour do not hide glimpses of themes such as fear, doubt, loneliness, deceit and disillusion. And so, from documents, photographs, videos, texts, truths and lies, Calle weaves her spider's web in which she traps the stories she herself constructs and makes happen in a kind of meticulously controlled ritual. The mixture of coarseness and mockery, sensibility and passion, is deeply moving and makes her work a kind of mirror of the soul, her own and that of the other.
Marta Gili