Sunday, December 8, 2013

After loss-Sophie Calle (revised)

         Sophie Calle’s most recent exhibition Absence examines her distressing circumstances while going through her mother’s death. It uses various media: printed and framed texts, porcelain plaques, and more than 50 photographs. The work conveys the mourning of the artist after a loss of a loved one. Calle’s mother, Rachel Monique Sindler, died of breast cancer in 2006. Her last word to Calle was “souci”, which means worry in French. The text and photo based work conveys emotional moments related directly to death, disappearance, and grief of loss. It first appears like a personal diaristic work, but her heavy sentiment immediately gets passed on to viewers, enabling them to relate to their own losses.

        The gallery includes two bodies of works that seem totally irrelevant to each other. At first glance, common sense predicts that these are two very different projects installed in two separate rooms. However, after a thorough scanning of her work, one comes to realize that these visually extraneous works surprisingly blend into a one theme of ‘absence’.
                       2013 Sophie Calle. Paula Cooper Gallery, New York
         The first small room by the entrance of gallery contains Calle’s most recent series, Purloined. The work is based on artworks stolen from The Gardner and others Museum in 1990. Calle shot photos of the space where the art was once displayed, then added text descriptions of the stolen works that she gained from interviews with guards, curators, and museum staff members. The text that substitutes the disappeared image triggers the curiosity in the viewer; they are led to wonder what was there before the works dissappeared. One might interpret this work mournfully, while others might pass with indifference.  
2013 Sophie Calle. Paula Cooper Gallery, New York
         The main gallery is where Calle thoroughly devoted her memento mori on her mother’s death. After walking through a lace curtain embroidered with the word “Souci,” viewer is bombarded with images and texts with numerous uses of the same word “souci”, in framed paintings and photos. Even without knowing the definition of this word which is ‘to worry’ in French, it is apparent that this word holds significance once noticing its frequent appearance throughout the work. While photo image of a giraffe statuette dominates the center of the wall, enlarged excerpts of her mother’s journal are displayed almost symmetrically in frame. Next to the giraffe, there is an inscription saying, “When my mother died I bought a taxidermal giraffe. I named it after my mother and hung it up in my studio. Monique looks down on me with sadness and irony.” The giraffe stands in presence as a substitution of Calle’s mother’s absence. The giraffe Monique performs as an alter ego of her mother, it is an artifact that aids Calle overcome the agony of loss.  
          The right wall displays photographs taken during Calle’s trip to North Pole to bury her mother’ belongings; a diamond, Chanel necklace, and photograph. Facing is a wall of document photographs taken from Lourdes, a small town in France, where Calle traveled with her dying mother. The photos include ordinary streetscapes and objects that are only notable to Calle. Each photograph contains poetic narratives alongside it. Pictures and texts almost always weigh equally important in Calle's work. She considers herself a "narrative artist".  Photography is only used to concretize Calle's subject. Thus, only by the context of the work are we able to understand clearly that the two different works actually carry the same leitmotif; the loss of familiar and precious suddenly getting taken away. From the most personal memories widening to universal, the two very differently treated projects ultimately result one theme of memoirs of loss, leaving trail note of emotional resonance to viewers. 

1 comment:

  1. You make interesting connections and analysis in the last paragraph, tying the two bodies of work together and going more in depth about the metaphors and techniques Calle uses. I think the rest of the review is too descriptive. This could be helpful for the viewer, but I think more critical analysis and discussion would make the review stronger