Sophie Calle

Paris France 1953, lives and works in Paris

Prenez soin de vous / Take Care of Yourself<br/ >Mère / Mother, Monique Sindler
photograph and text, framed separately
63 x 78 cm 43 x 103 cm

Art and life have entered into a solid pact in the work of Sophie Calle. "I live happy events and I exploit unhappy ones. Firstly out of artistic interest, but also in order to transform them, do something with them, make the most of them—get my own back on the situation." 

The project Prenez soin de vous illustrates her standpoint in a remarkable manner. "Take care of yourself" happens to be the final remark made by Sophie Calle's lover on ending their relationship in an e-mail. She took the advice seriously and used the mail as the point of departure for a work of art. What began as a question being posed to a close girlfriend ultimately acquired the scope of a project in which 107 women became involved. Among them were figures such as a mediator, a linguist, a psychiatrist, a specialist in women's rights employed at the UN, a school teacher, a police officer and Calle's own mother, but also others—a novelist, a clairvoyant, an actrice, a singer, a dancer and a clown. Even a Japanese bunraku puppet and a parrot took part. At Sophie Calle's request they all used their own professional expertise to analyze the e-mail, comment on it and, in a few cases, respond to it. In Take Care of Yourself, this abundance of spoken, written, sung and danced reactions has taken shape in an installation of texts, photographs and short videos. It is a surprising accumulation of interpretations which not only causes the work to rise far above its painful origins, but also frees it of any sense of the autobiograpical.

The way in which Sophie Calle makes use of events from her personal life—here as well as in other works—betrays no trace of the exhibitionism so characteristic of the present 'age of emotion'. We can only guess as to her own feelings; and her ex-lover, too, remains out of view. In Take Care of Yourself Sophie Calle has taken full control of things again.