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Sophie Calle

French Conceptual artist

Sophie Calle Photo
Movements and Styles: Conceptual Art, Feminist Art, Performance Art

Born: October 9, 1953 - Paris, France

"I'm not obsessive, but I am rigorous. If I have decided that there is this rule or that rule then I am very committed. I don't get bored. I think I have an ability because I believe in the construction of the idea."

Summary of Sophie Calle

Stripper, stalker, spy, and thief are all roles the quintessentially French Conceptual artist Sophie Calle has placed herself in toward understanding her own and others' physical and emotional biographies. Probing our human compulsions that vacillate between secrecy and openness, intimacy and privacy, her constructed "games" ask us to join her in investigating our own lives through a social anthropological lens. Her work redefines what it means to be an artist as not only one who creates, but also one who understands that life in itself, is the greatest form of art.

Key Ideas

Calle's work is distinguished by its use of arbitrary sets of constraints, and evokes the French literary movement of the 1960s known as Oulipo, where a group of Conceptual writers used similar constraints in literature. Devising "rules" for her own self-compelled games was a regular starting point for her explorations into the human condition.
Calle's work frequently depicts human vulnerability, using her self and others to examine situations and interactions that blur the lines between personal identity and intimacy. This oftentimes conjures reflection surrounding absence, presence, longing, hope, and other primal emotions.
The artist is highly recognized for her detective-like ability to follow strangers and investigate their private lives. Her total disregard for boundaries, hierarchy, and privacy have been equally criticized and lauded, as she walks a fine line between intrusion and engagement.
Much of Calle's work is comprised of actions, sometimes taking extended periods of time to enact, absorb, and analyze. The physical evidence of the actions becomes the "artwork" - usually documentary photographs and explanatory texts presented with a coolly detached analyst's eye.
Whether presenting the lives of strangers or her own, Calle's oeuvre is marked by a confessional-like manipulation, seducing the viewer to become complicit in the very act of watching or participating. They are invited to walk alongside Calle into that tense place between depiction and exploitation.
Sophie Calle Photo

Sophie Calle was born into an intellectual and creative household in 1953 Paris, where she experienced an unconventional childhood. Her oncologist father, Robert Calle, was a renowned art collector and former director of the Nimes' Carré d'Art, a contemporary art museum. Her mother, Monique Sindler, was a book critic and press attaché, later described by Calle as "the wildest mother, who was always center stage." In fact, she would later become a huge subject of her daughter's work, as in the installation Rachel, Monique, (2014) which was a tribute to the life and loves of her mother, featuring a video of the final moments of her life.

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