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“I Lost Myself in Venice and Turned it Into a Piece of Art” Recycling Loose Moments of Life (Sophie Calle and Boredom)

[Unpublished Conference, Venice, 2009]

By comparing early works of Calle to the 19th-Century attitude of the dandy, I aim to test a hypothesis that came up a long time ago. The starting point was an academic dissertation on Sophie Calle, specifically on the question of truth and fiction. An aspect of her work struck me at the time, but I didn’t know what to do with it. It seemed that her work was based on life itself, with a twist, I do agree, but still, it appeared to the public that she was doing almost nothing, or at least, very few. Sophie Calle, now famous French artist born in 1953, came back to Paris in the late 70’s after a 7-year long travel all over the world. At the time of her come back, she had no proper job, no friends and actually, nothing to do in Paris. In his novel Leviathan (1992) the American writer Paul Auster borrows some features of Sophie Calle’s artistic experiments to create a fictional double called Maria Turner, who is depicted as an eccentric photographer. In the novel, he narrates this come back to the city, just like Sophie Calle did, and he explains that she started to follow randomly people in the streets in order to “find new ideas, to fill up the void in which she seemed to sink”. Even if Auster rearranges the facts for his story, Sophie Calle does not disallow the substance of it (on the contrary, she appreciates the ambiguity resulting from this blurring effect). This happened indeed for real in 1978, when Calle left California for Paris, on the basis of a deal with her father who agreed to sponsor her as long as she had found a real activity. One of the reasons Sophie Calle likes to give in interviews to explain why she became an artist is that she wanted to seduce her father. He is now a retired renowned doctor and an art collector who had a flair for contemporary artists, such as Christian Boltanski or the Nouveaux Réalistes in the 60’s. The legend (built by Calle herself and that the writer Hervé Guibert helped propagating) says how she discovered that she liked photography. She was living with a friend who had a photographic lab in her basement. During a visit of a Californian cemetery, with the help of her friend, Calle took some pictures of tombstones whose inscriptions were simply “mother”, “brother”, “father”. She decided it was enough of a business to turn it into an everyday occupation. Continuer la lecture de “I Lost Myself in Venice and Turned it Into a Piece of Art” Recycling Loose Moments of Life (Sophie Calle and Boredom)