In 1979, Sophie Calle disguised herself and followed a man she met at a Paris party to Venice. She documented her journey in the book 'Suite Venitienne' (published 1980), a scrapbook of sorts that includes diary-style notations and clandestine photographs of the man she stalked.
SOPHIE CALLE Suite Vénitienne, 1980 Detail 1 presentation text, 55 black and white photographs, 23 texts and 3 maps dimensions variable Edition 3/3 in English
In order to execute her project The Hotel (1981), she was hired as a chambermaid at a hotel in Venice where she was able to explore the writings and objects of the hotel guests. Insight into her process and its resulting aesthetic can be gained through her account of this project: "I spent one year to find the hotel, I spent three months going through the text and writing it, I spent three months going through the photographs, and I spent one day deciding it would be this size and this frame...it's the last thought in the process."
SOPHIE CALLE Hotel Room 28, 1983 Black and white and color photograph with text 49 x 56 inches, each panel Edition of eight, Courtesy Donald Young Gallery, Chicago
The Art Historian said:
In Suite Vénitienne, Calle secretly follows a man through Venice while taking notes and photographing him; in L’hôtel, Calle disguises herself as a maid and examines strangers’ lives through their belongings left in hotel rooms during their absence. As these two works unfold, the viewers’ expectations about the work as representing anything “real” are overturned, and the viewer becomes more interested in Sophie Calle than in any secrets she might reveal about the others.
Calle begins these performances by setting up rules for her game of detective, most obvious of which is, —try not to be seen. She is never able to follow through with this one-sided relationship, however, and her rules are made to be broken. Her voyeuristic activity forces a kind of one-sided intimacy with her subjects (especially men) through the visual, which always has the possibility of reversal and, in the end, results in the construction of “Sophie.” She writes about how her project of observing others effects her emotions and controls her actions, in other words, how she becomes dependent on her subjects. The possibility that she will be caught or confronted is the possibility of establishing a real relationship, while at the same time she reminds us cleverly that it is just a game.
THESIS ABSTRACT 2004
Sophie Calle: Construction of Intimacy and Identity in Suite Vénitienne and L’hôtel
Rachel Middleman received a BA in philosophy from the University of California Santa Cruz. At SAIC, she has served as a teaching assistant and will begin a Ph.D. program in the fall in order to pursue her dream of becoming a professor of Art History.