As I’ve lamented at length… I’ve been unemployed for a good few months now. Whilst it’s all very good moaning on, I sometime loose sight of the luxury of being in control of one’s own time.

In the months before Christmas, I attended a veritable orgy of art exhibitions. Many of the shows have closed to make way for the new Spring ones, so I thought it should remember the highlights:

SOPHIE CALLE

My first encounter with Sophie Calle happened when I read Paul Auster’s novel Leviathan.

On the first page of his book Auster inserts a personal note: “The author extends special thanks to Sophie Calle for permission to mingle fact with fiction.”

It took a little bit of detective work on my side, but I eventually discovered that Paul Auster was thanking Sohpie Calle for allowing him to ‘steal’ her personality. Calle’s character is applied to one of the pivotal characters in his book – to the weird and wonderful Maria Turner.

“Maria was an artist but the work she did had nothing to do with creating objects commonly defined as art. Some people called her a photographer, others referred to her as a conceptualist, still others considered her a writer, but … in the end I don’t think she could be pigeonholed in any way. Her work was too nutty for that…”

On finishing Leviathan, my curiosity concerning Sophie Calle had not been fully satisfied. When I discovered that Sophie Calle was exhibiting in London, I practically knocked down the doors of the White Chapel Gallery in my eager anticipation.

The exhibition Talking to Strangers was an impressive one-woman show that not only exhibited the highlights of Calle’s thirty year career, but it premiered the English language version of Prenez soin de vous (Take care of yourself), a highlight of the 2007 Venice Biennale.

The idea behind Prenez soin de vous was initiated when Calle received an email from a lover ending their relationship. Instead of lamenting her loss, Calle set about making copies of the email. She then invited 107 women, from a ballerina to a lawyer, to use their professional skills to interpret the email. The poignant, amusing and at times poetic results form an enormous muti-media installation.

Interpretations of the email include photographs, videos, songs, letters, essays and even fashion designs. It’s hard to believe that one email was such an explosive catalyst of talent.

It would be easy to label Calle’s ambitious project as an aggressive act of feminism fuelled by bitterness and revenge, but the beauty of Prenez soin de vous was that it transcended the personal to provide a statuesque monument to the numerous women involved.

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