Sophie Calle (born 1953) is a French writer, photographer, installation artist, and conceptual artist.
Early works after Suite Vénitienne (1980), The Hotel (1981) and The Shadow (1981)
The following year (1982), Calle organized The Sleepers, a project in which she invited 24 people to occupy her bed continuously for eight days. Some were friends, or friends of friends, and some were strangers to her. She served them food and photographed them every hour.
One of Calle's first projects to generate public controversy was Address Book (1983). The French daily newspaper Libération invited her to publish a series of 28 articles. Having recently found an address book on the street (which she photocopied and returned to its owner), she decided to call some of the telephone numbers in the book and speak with the people about its owner. To the transcripts of these conversations, Calle added photographs of the man's favorite activities, creating a portrait of a man she never met, by way of his acquaintances. The articles were published, but upon discovering them, the owner of the address book, a documentary filmmaker named Pierre Baudry, threatened to sue the artist for invasion of privacy. As Calle reports, the owner discovered a nude photograph of her, and demanded the newspaper publish it, in retaliation for what he perceived to be an unwelcome intrusion into his private life.
Another of Calle's noteworthy projects is titled The Blind (1986), for which she interviewed blind people, and asked them to define beauty. Their responses were accompanied by her photographic interpretation of their ideas of beauty, and portraits of the interviewees.
In 1996, Calle released a film titled No Sex Last Night which she created in collaboration with (the then husband) American photographer Gregory Shephard. The film documents their road trip across America, which ends in a wedding chapel in Las Vegas. Rather than following the genre conventions of a road trip or a romance, the film is designed to document the result of a man and woman who barely knew each other, embarking on an intimate journey together.
Calle is known largely for works combining texts and photographic images in a cool presentational style; The Birthday Ceremony is her first major sculptural installation and it has been conceived especially for Art Now 14. Although made in 1998 the work has its origins in the years 1980 to 1993 when Calle invented and sustained a series of private and shared rituals around her birthday. These are now manifest as art, demonstrating how closely her life and her art are intertwined. Over this fourteen-year period, aside from the occasional year of disruption, Calle held an annual dinner party on the evening (or around the time) of her birthday. To each celebration she invited a group of friends and relatives, the precise number of invitees corresponding to the number of years of her age, with one additional, anonymous guest nominated by a chosen guest, in order to symbolise the unknown of her future.
Calle asked writer and filmmaker Paul Auster to "invent a fictive character which I would attempt to resemble" and served as the model for the character Maria in Auster’s novel Leviathan (1992). This mingling of fact and fiction so intrigued Calle that she created the works of art created by the fictional character, which included a series of color-coordinated meals.
Auster later challenged Calle to create and maintain a public amenity in New York. The artist's response was to augment a telephone booth (on the corner of Greenwich and Harrison streets in Manhattan) with a note pad, a bottle of water, a pack of cigarettes, flowers, cash, and sundry other items. Every day, Calle cleaned the booth and restocked the items, until the telephone company removed and discarded them. This project is documented in The Gotham Handbook (1998).
In Room with a View (2003), Calle spent the night in a bed installed at the top of the Eiffel Tower. She invited people to come to her and read her bedtime stories in order to keep her awake through the night. The same year, Calle had her first one-woman show at the Musée National d'Art Moderne at Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.
Sophie Calle, Room with view
Douleur Exquise (exquisite pain) 2003. She was supposed to go to Japan but didn’t want to, so she took the train through Moscow and through Siberia, then through Beijing, then to Hong Kong. She was supposed to meet her lover in New Delhi, but he made up some sort of story about a car accident, which she realized was a lie. She took a photograph every day until the day they were supposed to meet in New Delhi, and wrote about how much she looked forward to meeting him. The second half of the book was all about the pain of the heartbreak. She would write about the horrible memory of the conversation where she realized he was breaking up with her on one page, and ask people to tell her their worst memory, which was placed on the right. Over the days, her story became shorter and shorter as her pain dissipated over the time. The juxtaposition of everyone’s terrible memories also played down the pain of a simple breakup.
At the 2007 Venice Biennale, Sophie Calle showed her piece Take Care of Yourself, named after the last line of the message her ex had left her. Calle had asked dozens of women—including a parrot and a hand puppet—to interpret the break-up e-mail and presented the results in the French pavilion.
Sophie Calle said (in one interview):
I didn’t make Take Care of Yourself to forgive or forget a man — I did it to make a show in Venice.