‘On Monday, February 16, 1981, after a year of negotiating and waiting, I got myself hired as a temporary chambermaid for three weeks at a hotel in Venice. I was assigned twelve rooms on the fourth floor. During the course of my cleaning duties, I looked at the travellers’ personal belongings, the signs of temporary residence of some customers, the succession of guests […]’ So begins Sophie Calle’s collection of stories from a Venice hotel, created from the traces each guest leaves in the room. Each individual piece that makes up L’hôtel is formally constructed in two parts. One part consists of the photographs Calle takes of the objects ‘as she found them in the room’ before cleaning it. The other is a text from a type of diary in which she jots down, as one would in a field notebook, her observations and feelings: ‘Room 44. Wednesday 18. Green pyjamas. On the table, Kleenex and a book: Terapia 80. She has had a bath. The room is always clean, empty. I put on her perfume and her make-up, I do the room and leave.’ Sophie Calle tells the stories of others, of people she rarely meets, but whom she observes, follows or investigates. Assembling these stories and subverting the boundaries between the private and the public, between what is art and what is not, represent some of the recurrent concepts around which she structures much of her work.
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