Sophie Calle

Paris France 1953, lives and works in Paris

For thirty years now, the art of Sophie Calle has been concerned with the will to acquire a grasp of existence and the longing to surrender to it. The works based on events from her personal life have their counterparts in those which seem to involve the reverse: works in which the art leaves its mark on her daily life. Even as a child, Calle was fond of rituals. Since 1979 they have found a place in her work: in the strategies that determine and structure her approach to daily activities.Sophie Calle plays the game with great dedication and perseverance; in her artworks she chronicles this in a factual as well as subdued manner.

By conceiving of life as a game, living it according to certain rules, she creates a realm within which she can submit to the unexpected and accidental. In 1979 Calle decided to follow, at random, passersby and to allow herself to be carried away by them through city streets. Since then she has devised countless scenarios in which she attempts to approach others in their own vulnerability. This was done most explicitly in The Sleepers (1979), a project forwhich she asked people to come and sleep in her bed for a few hours. And most 'brazenly' in The Address Book (1983), whose title refers to the booklet of addresses that Calle found on the street in June 1983. Intrigued by its unknown owner, she attempted to become better acquianted with him, not by way of an encounter but from the descriptions given by friends and relations listed in the book.

Sophie Calle has given her own existence an important place in her work. The documentary manner in which she presents her work suggests a high degree of factualness. Precisely where fact and fiction merge is difficult for the viewer to ascertain. Influenced by the suggestive power of her work, novelist Paul Auster based the behavior of his character Maria, in Leviathan (1983), on episodes from Sophie Calle's life. She, in turn, asked this American writer to invent a fictional character which she could assume in real life. Auster refused to do so, but he did provide her with some instructions on 'how to improve life in New York'.
The Gotham Handbook (1994) provides an account of this and moreover shows the public phone booth that Sophie Calle adopted in this city and, with full devotion, transformed into a warm and cosy place. The connection between art and reality that Sophie Calle seeks can be light and poetic, or it can have a more dramatic undercurrent. In her works she makes us participants in this; at the same time she maintains a distance and leaves room for the viewer's own interpretation. Acts that she carries out in order to cope with life are more recognizable and less personal than the diary-like character of her work suggests.