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"Sophie Calle: 1970's to 2003"
2004-06-23 until 2004-08-15
Irish Museum of Modern Art
The first exhibition in Ireland by the acclaimed French artist Sophie Calle opens to the public at the Irish Museum of Modern Art on Wednesday 23 June 2004. Sophie Calle, the most comprehensive exhibition of Calle’s work in Europe in more than a decade, presents works ranging from the 1970s to 2003 and includes new works made especially for the show. The exhibition is designed and organised by the Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne / Centre de création industrielle, Paris and is presented in association with The Irish Times with support from the French Embassy.
For over 20 years Sophie Calle’s work has taken the form of photographic installations and chronicles, whose structure and form reflect a narrative approach - both within themselves individually and, taken together, in terms of Calle’s own career. Born in Paris in 1953, Calle’s early work dates from a world trip in the 1970s that lasted seven years. During a stay in California in 1978 she took her first photographs – graves marked Father and Mother – with no professional intent, she simply had come upon something that ‘her father might like’. On her return to Paris she began tailing unknowns in the street as part of a conscious ‘drifting through the city’, recording the results in notebooks containing photographs and texts.
By the 1980s the emphasis had moved to her own feelings resulting in the construction of a set of rules and rituals intended to resolve certain personal difficulties. This was followed in the late ‘80s and ‘90s by a concentration on the concept of sight and more recently issues to do with the disappearance of people and things.
The exhibition is the first opportunity for a detailed cross-referencing of the specific themes Calle has been working on throughout her career, themes which are frequently centred around the bed. This motif made its appearance in her first project The Sleepers, 1979, in which, over the course of a week Calle invited various friends and unknowns to sleep in her bed for eight hours each. The resulting photographs and narratives were shown at the Venice Biennale, 1980, and this first exhibition resulted in her decision to ‘become an artist’. The bed is also the focus of Bedroom, 2003, in which we find the emblematic material of the Autobiographies she has been working on since 1988. In Journey to California, 2003, Calle recounts the travels of her bed to an unknown person coming to terms with a failed love affair.
The same leitmotiv is also implicit in many of her other works, among them the masterly Exquisite Pain, 1984-2003. This three-part work is based on the artist’s recollection of a break-up she considered at the time as the most painful experience of her life. The theme of the bed occurs again in No Sex Last Night, 1992, a road movie shot in the United States with Greg Shephard, shown here in its VHS format, Double Blind, 1992.
The exhibition is also pervaded by issues of absence, disappearance and want. The Shadow, 1981, has two voices recounting both a detective’s investigation of a day in the artist’s life and the artists’ own account. In Twenty Years Later, 2001, Sophie Calle repeated the experiment - at the instigation of her gallery director Emmanuel Perrotin.
The exhibition is curated by Christine Macel, Curator, Centre Pompidou, and is organised by the Centre Pompidou, Paris. It will travel to the Martin Gropius-Bau, Berlin, and the Ludwig Forum, Aachen.
A catalogue, published by the Centre Pompidou and Xavier Barral Publishers, with essays by Yve-Alain Bois, art historian and writer, Olivier Rolin, writer, Christine Macel, and a contribution by British artist Damien Hirst, accompanies the exhibition (price €74.00).
Sophie Calle and Gregory Shepard,
still from Double Blind, 1992