Saturday, November 24, 2007

Sophie Calle in Venice

I've written several times on this blog already about my passion for Sophie Calle, so you can imagine how excited I was that I managed to catch the last few days of her show at the Biennale in Venice.

She took as a focus for the exhibition a dumping letter she'd received by email from a lover, which ended in the words 'Take Care of Yourself'.

Well, Sophie Calle knows how best to take care of herself - by examining from every minute angle the experience so as to own it better. She asked 107 women (actually 106 women and one parrot) to give their versions of the letter. This varied from a text message.

To a mathematical diagram.

And also included a deaf signing, a musical interpretation, a clowning, a mother's viewpoint, linguistic variations, a young girl's comments and many many more. It was moving and funny and I can't believe anyone - man or woman - could have walked round without thinking of their own relationships and what they REALLY meant. We too often see things just through our obviously biaised eyes.

It's hard to say which were my favourites. I loved the marital guidance session where Sophie Calle was filmed being interviewed sitting on one chair, while the letter took the 'husband's' seat, saying nothing but looking remarkably smug. I also giggled, along with everyone else, as a cook was videoed chopping up vegetables harder and harder as she read through the letter. And I barked with laughter and shock as the parrot actually dived in and ate the letter. I know I'll be thinking about it for a long time to come, and that - in some way or another - the ideas in that room will come out in my writing.

It's this response which summed up the whole exhibition for me.

I went to the exhibition with a group of women, and couldn't help but wonder what the male visitors felt. Was it their worst nightmare of how women discuss them? Because, to be honest, being surrounded by so many - sympathetic - female responses and voices made me think of numerous lunches I've spent analysing relationships. So perhaps it's not surprising that, according to the Guardian Interview Sophie Calle's boyfriend has made this request from her:

She doesn't use her all boyfriends as work, she insists. Her current partner has asked her not to do anything based on him and she has agreed.

And my writing prompt for today is .... A farewell letter.

1 comment:

Shameless said...

Oh, funny to read about Calle ... for my birthday recently I was given a lovely three-book collection of hers: disparitions, souvenirs de berlin-est and fantômes. I love her work. :-)