Go See – London: Sophie Calle ‘Talking to Strangers’ at Whitechapel Gallery through January 3, 2010

November 14th, 2009

Sophie Calle-Women and Blackboard-Talking to Strangers-The Whitechapel
Women and Blackboard
from Take Care of Yourself (2007) by Sophie Calle, via The Whitechapel

Now on view at the Whitechapel in London is Sophie Calle’s  exhibition Talking to Strangers. Hailed for her photographic and film installations, Calle is known as one of France’s foremost female conceptual artist.  Her often obsessive and voyeuristic projects examine the many notions by which human identity is constructed. She has been known to ask a stranger to sleep in her bed and invite an author to command her destiny. Such social interactions involve a complete act of trust for circumstances where trust is normally termed taboo.

Sophie Calle-Talking to Strangers-Whitechapel
B & W Motocyclist-from Cash Machine (1988-2003) by Sophie Calle, via The Whitechapel

The exhibition at the Whitechapel premieres the English language version of Prenez Soin de Vous (Take Care of Yourself), a work which was the highlight of the 2007 Venice Biennale. For this work the artist invited 107 women from professions such as classical ballet to law to use their skills to interpret an email in which her partner breaks up with her. The resulting work is in the form of a large-scale installation of photographs of the many women partaking in the project.

Sophie Calle-Ballerina-Take Care of Yourself-WhiteChapel
Ballerina from Take Care of Yourself (2007) by Sophie Calle, via The Whitechapel

The show also includes work such as The Bronx (1980) where the artist asked residents of the south Bronx in New York to take her to any place they wished. Other work features her collaboration with American novelist Paul Auster in 1994 where she becomes one of his fictional characters.

Sophie Calle-Talking to Strangers-Whitechapel
Phonebooth from Gotham Handbook (1994) by Sophie Calle, via The Whitechapel

“Walking through this exhibition is like reading a brillant and innovative contemporary novel. I am not using the smile of literary fiction lightly. Calle makes art you must read,” says Jonathan Jones of The Guardian. The artist’s combination of text, images and installation seemingly strive to reconfigure a space that allows the viewer not only to read her written narrative- but to truly experience it.

Photograph of Sophie Calle-Whitechapel
Photograph of  Sophie Calle, via The Whitechapel

Sophie Calle was born in Paris in 1953. She began taking photographs and following people on the streets in 1979. Since then she has used image and text alongside her photographic work to create compelling narratives continually emphasizing the fine line between private and collective experience

Sophie Calle at the Whitechapel-The Guardian
Sophie Calle at the Whitechapel Gallery in London via The Guardian

Sophie Calle: Talking to Strangers [Whitehapel Gallery]
Visual Art Review: Sophie Calle, Whitechapel Art Gallery
[The Guardian]
Up close and (too) personal: A Sophie Calle retrospective [The Indepenent]
Sophie Calle is an artist who is happy to show her claws [Times Online]

-R.A.P