Sophie Calle

It is all about the women. It is the women who have us. They hold and transfix us, even when they refuse to meet our gaze. Scores of women: an actress, a psychoanalyst, a student, a judge, a clairvoyant, an intelligence agent, a dancer, a semiotician, a mime artist, a Japanese opera singer and on and on in extensia. It is they who guide us through the porous and moody labyrinth of Sophie Calle’s wonderful “Prenez soin de vous (Take care of yourself),” a monumental installation at DHC/ART.

Some of these women’s faces are not to be seen–as though they had insisted upon visual anonymity. The panoply is arresting by virtue of its very diversity–and by the fact that all these women demonstrate an intensity of attention and care to the project at hand: that most ubiquitous of things, an e-mail, the hard copy of which many are seen reading.

All these women are the artist’s arbiters–107 of them, a tribunal of sorts–called upon to perform a difficult task: to read and render professional commentary upon a break-up e-mail that the artist received from her ex-lover, which ends with the line “Take care of yourself.”

The work is self-reflective, of course, but in its very nakedness, it is also heartrending. She infringes upon her own privacy. Not his. Her own. The sheer intensity of her obsessive working process, already a legend in the art world, is there for all to see. The work is fetishistic, but also self-mocking by virtue of surfeit, and luminous in excess.

To read James D. Campbell’s entire review, pick up issue 108!

Volume 27, Number 4: Photography

This article originally appeared in Border Crossings #108, published December 2008.

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