Turning pain into art

There’s always a story behind her work..
She was bored. “I had no friends; I didn’t know what to do with my life, so I started to follow people.” Why? “Establishing rules and following them is restful. If you follow someone, you don’t have to wonder where you’re going to eat. They take you to their restaurant. The choice is made for you.”
During her stalking days, a friend asked if she could sleep in Calle’s bed. “That made me think it would be fun to have someone in bed all the time.” So she asked friends and strangers to sleep in the bed for eight hours; one participant thought there was going to be an orgy. It sounds like a conceptual art project. “It wasn’t,” counters Calle. “It only became so when the wife of a critic told him about it. He came along. He said, ‘Is this art?’ and I said, ‘It could be.'” She took photographs and wrote down everything everyone said. The result was The Sleepers, text and photographs that could readily have hung on her father’s walls.

The Sleepers is Sophie Calle’s first fully realized installation consisting of 173 photographs and 23 explanatory texts (6 x 8 inches/15.2 x 20.3 cm each photo and text unit) that document a series of situations orchestrated by Calle, in which people (friends, neighbors, strangers) allowed her to observe them as they slept.
In 1983, Calle produced her most controversial work of art, Address Book. She had found an address book in the street, photocopied it and sent the original back to its owner. Then she set about ringing the numbers to assemble a portrait of the man. She also took photographs of other people engaged in his favourite activities. When the newspaper Libération published the results, the man, documentary film-maker Pierre Baudry, threatened to sue for invasion of privacy, only backing down when the paper ran a nude photograph of Calle. Given that The Striptease was already published, this sounds like rather feeble revenge. “He was trying to be very aggressive. He disliked what I did.”

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