Sophie Calle. Où et Quand ? -Berck-
Actes Sud, Arles, 2008
Calle asked the fortune-teller Maud Kristen where she should go and when. Kristen hesitated at first but then agreed to lay down travel itineraries for Calle after consulting the cards. The first destination she specified was the seaside resort of Berck in northern France and the second was Lourdes, the fa-mous pilgrimage site. While traveling, Calle regularly checked in with Kristen by telephone to receive new instructions. The various texts describe their sessions in Paris and provide detailed accounts of each trip, including railway schedules and routes; and they record the artist’s experi-ences and thoughts along the way. They are supplemented by photographs, souvenirs and video recordings of conversations with people she encountered on her travels.
By submitting to the instructions of someone else – in this case, a complete stranger – the artist links her fate to that of another human being and seems to – in a sense – hand her life over to that person. Thus the project touches on questions of dominance and subordination, authority and obedience, self determination and other-directedness. Calle describes her motivation as follows: “I proposed that Maud Kristen predict my future so I could face it and reduce its momentum some-what.” It is the same desire that drives people to read their horoscope every day or turn to astrology shows on TV for counsel – the desire to know what lies ahead and thus feel they have some control over their own life.
Sophie Calle’s works are statements both on human nature and on the nature of art, in which she playfully challenges and shifts the boundaries between the two. Her works are at once referential and abstract, referring to specific events and experiences and pointing beyond them at the same time. By exploring life in all its facets and continually juggling antitheses such as documentation and invention, fact and fiction, reality and show, she sets out to provoke reactions and communi-cation.
The artist grapples with methods of perception and identification by portraying life in all its diver-sity, handing over all the problems and questions to the viewer – and thereby, closing the loop, back to life itself – to find the answers. Calle’s works are distinguished by the directness of her formal approach, her narrative skill, the conceptual enrichment they undergo over the course of their creation, and their power to draw in the observer with all his or her abilities and experiences. The uncertainty expressed in her works is what makes them so compelling. Uncertainty is almost always unsettling. It is inefficient, unproductive, and sometimes even dangerous. Hybrid in na-ture, these works resist classification, like life itself. Sophie Calle wouldn’t have it any other way