my darling friend Berengere lent me this book by Sophie Calle a while ago, over 4yrs i think. it had a huge impact on my thinking, it taught me how to "relativiser" - of course in the dull English language, there is no one word to translate but a banal sentence "to put into perspective"! sounds way more philosophical in French than in English, don't you agree?

"Douleur Exquise": At the end of a 92 day voyage to Japan in 1984 Calle was abandoned by her lover, who failed to show up for a planned meeting in New Delhi. Deeply distressed by the break-up Calle could only speak of the journey's unfortunate ending upon her return to France and began asking others to recount their own most painful experiences. Through this process of storytelling and repetition, Calle's pain was slowly alleviated. It was more than fifteen years later, however, that she decided to transform the whole sequence of events into an artwork.

it's not just a book, but started off as an exhibition:
  • The first part of the exhibition consists of 92 photographs and ephemera, recording each day of Calle's trip preceding the missed rendezvous. This diary is presented retrospectively as countdown to the artist's rejection and despair, each photograph or document stamped with a number indicating the remaining amount of “days until unhappiness.”
  • Part two is a three dimensional reconstruction of room 261 of the Imperial Hotel in New Delhi, the site of Calle's amorous tragedy, as interpreted by Gehry and Chan.
  • In the third part the exorcism, Calle's own story, is juxtaposed with narratives of pain and heartache from others. In this dynamic process of repetition and variation the original tale is transformed and the pain evaporated. Presented as 36 diptychs embroidered on light linen, the left side shows a photograph of the red telephone in the Imperial Hotel room where she received the bad news and a version of Calle's story, the right the story of someone else's “worst pain” along with a related photograph.
Sophie Calle is an impressive woman - here's an account of her person by acclaimed author Paul Auster:
"Sophie Calle had found a large address book and proceeded to interview everyone in the book to try to form a portrait in absentia of the man who had lost it. Every day, she published one of the interviews in French newspaper Liberation. When the man found out he was furious. He threatened to sue Sophie unless she appeared in the paper naked. So she did."

she has an exhibition, Talking To Strangers, which i'll be checking out at the Whitechapel Gallery when i'm in London next: http://www.whitechapelgallery.org/exhibitions/sophie-calle-talking-to-strangers

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