Updated on January 27th, 2020. Fraenkel Gallery presents Sophie Calle: Because, an exhibition of new photos visible for the first time in the U.S. On each piece, a felt curtain embroidered with Calle’s text conceals a hidden photograph behind it. In presenting viewers with the text before the picture, Calle upends the usual order in which images are read, creating a poetic surprise. This is the fourth time Calle exposes at Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco.
For almost forty years, Calle has made work that exposes intimate experience to public view, using still images, video, film, books, performance and text. Her work has often taken its origins from difficult moments in her personal life. “While turning these experiences into art, they somehow become a type of fiction,” she says.
Because is part of Calle’s ongoing exploration of the relationship between narrative, memory, and photography. It mixes humor and melancholy with her particular eye for irony. Subjects include the North Pole depicted in blue darkness, in a picture Calle made “Because that’s what you do when you are at the ends of the earth” the text explains. She photographed the Spanish bull fighter José Tomás “Because for the first time in my life, I’m about to ask for an autograph” she confesses. In Without Child , 2018, Calle quotes a description of herself that she found online: “‘Sophie Calle, artist without child by choice’” pairing it with a photograph of herself holding a baby to her open blouse, as if to nurse. She posed with the infant “By pure mischief, because one happens to be around” her text states.
We met with Sophie Calle at the opening of the exhibition on Saturday, January 25th as she was answering questions from the public.
Here are some of her ironic and authentic answers, like her.
– Sophie, why this format of photographs hidden behind a curtain with embroidered text?
Well, for the past few years, I’ve noticed that people shoot a lot, before they even look at their subject. It disturbed me a little, hence the idea of this text, which explains the reasons for my choice of photo or the thoughts that cross my head when I decide to photograph it.
– Did you choose this photo format, or their location?
Oh no, it’s already a miracle when I have a good idea, so the format or the place is completely random in my work. However, I really like to exhibit in diverted places, such as, for example, Le Musée de la Chasse, in Paris.
– Why did you choose this job?
I wanted to seduce my father, himself a great collector, so I started taking photos, a job that didn’t seem too complicated, and then I like writing too. My father is now deceased, but I have continued my work.
– You always treat serious or uncomfortable subjects…
Yes, this is where art unfolds. Everyone has once suffered a loss, a bereavement… this is a place that we can talk about easily. Happiness comes from within. It has no point of view. I have also been surrounded by the dead for a long time. I like to walk in cemeteries. These are beautiful public gardens, with lots of information about the city where they are located.
– There are some photos* in the exhibit that aren’t yours. Why?
Yes, I didn’t have enough photos to exhibit, so I chose a few on site. The idea was to show couples whose attitude does not match the image they want to give. The impression is ambiguous.
– How does reality relate to your work?
It doesn’t. Rather, I seek to stage paradoxes, the absurd. Here, in this case, I am quite appalled by the social situation of San Francisco. All these people on the streets in catastrophic, almost cadaverous states. It’s deplorable. But this is not the object of my work.
– Sophie, are you rather happy or unhappy?
I am very happy. The sad situations that I staged are not dramas. Everyone lives them sooner or later. Life has been very generous with me.
– (moderator) One last indiscreet question? A typical day for Sophie Calle?
Ah … .. on Sundays, I spend my time entirely in my bed!
*Concurrent with Because, Fraenkel Gallery will present a selection of work from the gallery’s archives, curated by Sophie Calle. The presentation, which includes work by Diane Arbus, Katy Grannan, Peter Hujar, and Garry Winogrand, among others, focuses on images that highlight complicated relationships between couples and pairs.
Address: Fraenkel Gallery – 49 Geary Street, San Francisco
Dates : From January 23rd to March 21, 2020
Merci Isabella Demeulenaere