Sophie Calle, the highlight of London


Last week we arrived in London en-mass to take in some of the most recent exhibitions. These were;

Sara Ramo: Movable Planes;

Jim Goldberg: Open See;

…both at the photographer’s gallery. (I didn’t think much of either and therefore don’t feel particularly inclined to comment)

We then saw an exhibition on the History of Photography at the British Museum featuring the actual famous, original images from the likes of William Henry Fox Talbot and Julia Margaret Cameron…very exciting when you’ve looked at them in textbook form as many times as I have!

A massive exhibition which was far larger than first thought and sadly stomachs were rumbling so we didn’t get round all of it.

Finally we went to the Whitechapel gallery where we saw; Sophie Calle, Talking to Strangers

As a long standing fan of Calle I was thrilled to see the “personal instructions for sc on how to improve life in new york” work (with Paul Auster, seen so far only in the book Double Game) for real, even if it was displayed behind glass. I was taken by how small the images seemed and imagined them much bigger somehow but having taken this book out of the library more than 3 times I was absolutely thrilled that this work was included. 

Talking to Strangers seemed bigger and more polished at an aesthetic level than much of Calle’s previous work, but I wasn’t entirely sure whether to take this as a positive. I can’t imagine the work realised in any other way though and I was glad that it was so expansive because it seemed to me that it was about about gaining an understanding of an e-mail through transference, so any perceived repetition was vital in this sense.  However the repeatition was not repeatition in a banal way because each woman was selected for her profession, therefore because she could apply her skills to the reading of it, and I never seemed to tire of this. I know this was not the case for others though and many pointed out quite rightly that it was a little one sided without any testosterone.

I guess I responded to it with such interest because it echoes the theme of my major project which is also about transference of emotion and interpretation through repeatition.

The responses from each female were reworked into a rather glossy format (on perspex in many cases) and this expensive feel didn’t really seem neccessary for what I personally felt was an otherwise fantastic concept and totally relevant for Calle. But like I say, she is a favourite of mine so I was bound to get lots from this show in particular.

Sadly there were no photographs at this one but it’s well worth going to see.

Upstairs was a challenging piece about the death of her Mother and her Mother’s last word which was Souci meaning worry, which I had a strong reaction to and couldn’t stay with. (Her Mother had said it in the context of “don’t worry”, worry being the final word and perhaps there is a reflective element within this).

The work I was less keen on was the clarvoyant piece where Calle follwed instructions from a psychic that actually ended rather unspectacularly with nothing happening at all, and my culturally ingrained lust for narrative inspired this negtative reaction I guess.

All in all though a very good day, except for the luch we had at O’Neills which was vile. 

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