july - september 2004 focus on film 12

artist of the month

Douleur exquise
Sophie Calle
by Mariano Mayer

La lieu de la Douli, Sophie Calle, 1984 ? 2003

Apres la douleur, Sophie Calle, 1984 - 2003

Unfolding interrelated systems between a setting and reality and structuring simple devices of fiction to create a model of concentrated communication in order to narrate and tell stories, Sophie Calle presents a piece which can be read like a thick instructions manual where it is possible to recover and participate in this vast phenomenon that we call experience.

"A narrative artist" is how this French artist prefers to be called. At the age of 18, in order to impress a Maoist official, she moved to Lebanon carrying around a machine gun she never learned how to use. She assures us she never received a love letter and after a breakup, she put all the money she had on the table of a travel agency and asked how far that amount would get her. She made Mexico her home for 1 year, later becoming Maria, the main character of Paul Auster·s novel, Leviathan. Sophie Calle has been stretching notions on veracity, representation and the limits between what is public and private for some time. She draws on elements from her own life (Birthday Celebration) to keep, preserve intact and exhibit in different display cases where she places gifts classified according to the year they were received for 13 birthdays. She uses the structure of the forensic filing system to become a voyager, detective and the subject of investigation (The Detective) asking her mother to hire a private detective to conduct an investigation of her; she becomes a fake lover hiring and paying a writer to write a love letter (La lettre dŽamor) and eight days later receives a letter several pages long; she gets a cleaning job at a Venetian palace in order to take photographs of each room when the occupants are not there, searching through night table drawers and objects kept under the beds (Venetian Suite); or she has various people sleep in her bed, one after the other, and later has them describe their own sensations (The Sleepers).

Through different processing systems (photography, texts, films, books or murals) Sophie Calle uses personal experiences and those of others to create a platform for narrative fiction, making face copies and dismantling an imposture theater to erase or suspend the difference between events and constructions. But also to reconstruct, Sophie Calle sets herself only in the territory of experiences, at times to emulate emotions and at others to reconstruct, as an urban entomologist, the value of other people·s experiences by asking blind people, for example, to describe how they perceive color and beauty (The Blind) or reconstructing the profile of a man from phone calls and his friends descriptions of him, based on an address book she found in the street in Paris (LŽhomme au carnet). Sophie Calle·s "stories are placed in the category of works of fine arts in different formats and presentations, to fictionalize instances based on her own experiences with identity, biography or desire.

Douleur exquise, until March 15th. The Georges Pompiduo Center. Paris. www.cnal-gp.fr

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