Friday, January 31, 2014

Guest Star #130…Sophie Calle

The Wedding Dress

A few years ago,  my friend Wes left a Sophie Calle book on a table in my Penland studio. We had been talking about art at lunch and he thought I would enjoy reading about her work…little did either of us know how important she would become to me. I spent days leafing through the book and didn't dive into the text for awhile. I think I was overwhelmed by what I was seeing and needed time to take it all in visually before reading about it. I have now read the book twice in its entirety and own my own copy which I keep by my bed to page through whenever I want.

Did You See Me?

Sophie Calle is a conceptual artist and uses photography, writing, installation and performance to create her work. I think she, herself, can be considered one of her materials as she plays a central role in many pieces. With a focus on the human experience, she takes a very close and often raw look at what humans do in public and private spaces. She crosses boundaries between what is acceptable and unacceptable, all in an effort to get to the bottom of something she may never get to: to understand humans better. Sophie questions identity, intimacy and vulnerability and does so in a sensitive manner that can also be quite disconcerting. She is cerebral and intuitive, deliberate and effortless, obsessive and subtle, all at the same time.

To See the Sea

There are many things I love about Sophie's work, but I think the one thing, maybe the most important thing I take away, is her power of observation, especially when it comes to the "everyday." Sophie takes notice of those little things that are often overlooked because they are so common it's like none of us notice them anymore. After I made "Observation/Translation" in 2012, I realized the influence she had on me. I have always been an observer but after reading about her work I think observation became even more important to me--I became more aware of the power and importance of observation and began to be more deliberate in my daily observations. It wash't until probably a year after I made that body of work that I realized Sophie was under my skin.

The Hotel

I also love that Sophie does things we all think about doing but most often do not react upon because we "shouldn't." She has followed strangers, called people in a found address book and watched people sleep. In "The Hotel" Sophie works as a housekeeper in a hotel and actually looks through the belongings of the guests whose rooms she is cleaning. Then she goes one step further by photographing what she finds and further still by forming stories about who the people are. I find this all very, very fascinating. It begins with curiosity, followed by the sharing of accumulated information in the form of tangible things like writing and photos. Her findings allow us to take an intimate look at the unseen in the everyday. I think they also cause us to think twice about our habits and to look closely at how we live our lives.

Take Care of Yourself, Installation view and detail

See more Sophie Calle here and see more of my favorite works on Pinterest.

Thanks for reading.

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