24.01. - 24.04.2009
Sophie Calle
"Where and when? Berck/Lourdes / Où et quand? Berck/Lourdes"
Solo exhibition at Arndt & Partner, Berlin

Sophie Calle, exhibition view at Arndt & Partner 2099 Sophie Calle, exhibition view at Arndt & Partner 2099

Press release:

Tell Me Quando, Quando, Quando …
In her artistic explorations of perception, memory, and the search for identity, Sophie Calle doesn’t merely trace others’ footsteps; she includes her own life as well. The ritualistic staging of situations is a primary motif in all her work. In an approach akin to journalistic research, the data and evidence she collects are presented in texts reminiscent of log entries and quasi-documentary photographs. On a formal level, she works with the juxtaposition of images and text; on the content level, with the interweaving of reality and fiction.

The exhibition of Calle’s new works Où et Quand? Berck and Où et Quand? Lourdes includes photographs, texts and videos as well as various artifacts and neon lettering with the names of the two eponymous French towns. At the outset of her project, Calle approached the fortune-teller Maud Kristen and asked her 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 famous 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 experiences 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 somewhat.” 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 communication.
The artist grapples with methods of perception and identification by portraying life in all its diversity, 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 nature, these works resist classification, like life itself. Sophie Calle wouldn’t have it any other way.

Text: Barbara Heinrich