SOPHIE CALLE: Historias de Pared.

El siguiente texto fue publicado en la Revista Art Nexus. Imagen cortesía del MAMM.

Historias de pared 

Sophie Calle 

Issue #85 Jun - Aug 2012

Art Nexus

Colombia, Medellín
Museo de Arte Moderno MAMM (Medellín)

Ricardo Arcos-Palma 

This exhibition is a unified narrative about invisibility, about romantic feelings, about the idea of seducing a collector-father, where the white, empty gallery wall poses a veritable challenge, the absence of a dead mother.

Sophie Calle’s exhibition Historias de pared opened in Medellín last March 21st; it will be on view in Bogotá, at the Museo del Banco de la República, starting in June. This show achieves the materialization of reality, intimacy, and fiction, combined into a visual narrative technically supported by photography and video. In this way, and following closely the precepts established by Allan Kaprow—who in the late 1950s insisted that art and life must connect and interrelate fluidly—Sophie Calle turns her own life into a pre-text for the work of art. Contemporary art, as we well know, has one essential virtue: to bring art closer to life, and vice-versa. Calle does this masterfully. This show is articulated around four works dated from the mid-1980s to 2011.

Los ciegos(1986). What is beauty for you? Calle asks a person who was born blind, and the answer is: “the sea fading from view.” This highly poetic sentence was the trigger for the artist to create an entire series about the blind. Blindness has been represented repeatedly by artists throughout history, for example Pieter Brueghel. In this case, Calle decided to interview a number of blind people (born sightless or left in that condition later in life) about beauty; each of them offers a definition or an idea of what they understand as beautiful. Alongside their answer, framed, Calle places a photograph of the respondent, and a second image that accounts for the answer itself. In this way, the image that is a memory or a sensation for those who can’t see, connects with the text and the face of the person. For example, next to one of the portraits we encounter this answer: “For me, the most beautiful thing is a painting. My brother in LA told me: ‘it’s a boat, I’ll give it to you if you want it’. I have never owned a painting. It has a slight relief. I can feel three masts and a large sail. I touch it often in the afternoon. On Wednesdays there is a TV show about the ocean, I listen to it and look at the painting. The ocean must also be very beautiful. I have been told that it is blue, green, and that it gleams under the sun, hurting the eyes. It must be painful to look at the ocean.” Right under this framed text there is, on a shelf, the painting being referred to.

Dolor exquisito (1984-2003). This installation, arranged in a room to form a line, emerged from a trip the artist took to Japan. During her trip, she received a letter from her romantic partner cutting off the relationship. Right then and there, the artist decided to exorcise the bitter moment through a private journal where photography and text are again the protagonists. The presence of objects, everyday scenes, photographs, closed and sealed envelopes, become elements in a staging of tragic love where pain plays a key role. Added to this story are other tales of woe, after the artist decided to ask her friends: “what has been your greatest suffering?” Dolor exquisito is a radiography of love, with suffering as the leitmotiv in any romantic relationship.

No sex last night (1992), 75:58 min. A film made in collaboration with Gregory Shephard. The stage where the story takes place is a Cadillac: Shephard and Calle film each other as their thoughts commingle promiscuously with the images. It is a story of love in the United States, where the journey towards a happy ending (a Las Vegas wedding) intertwines with the disappointment caused by the lack of sex. Motels, highways, the constantly malfunctioning car, a disconsolate yet necessary romance, and ultimately the divorce a few months later, portray the drama of a couple in a consumerist society where automobiles seem to be the most important thing. A film filled with humor and irony, which revisits and insists on the topic of impossible love. “I wanted not only to connect with art but to connect with life,” Calle says, adding that “I wanted to live with him, to marry him… but at the same time it is not my life; it is a movie.” Life and fiction become essential elements in this work of art.

Ver el mar (2011). To see the sea. In French, this sentence has the dual connotation of seeing the mother, given the phonetic similarity between la mer and la Mère. In Istanbul, called “the city of the blind,”Calle found a news item in a local paper that told about an entire population where no one had seen the ocean. This news item quickly became the starting point for the development of the series, where the artist contacted a number of people and films them as they see the ocean for the first time. When the characters turn around, we see a variety of expressions, some filled with joy some with sadness. Children, women and men, are able to wordlessly speak with their faces and communicate great emotions as they contemplate the sea for the first time in their lives.

This exhibition is a unified narrative about invisibility, about romantic feelings, about the idea of seducing a collector-father, where the white, empty gallery wall poses a veritable challenge, the absence of a dead mother or, in Sophie Calle’s own words, “more than in showing invisibility, I am interested in absence… of a loved one, of a painting in a museum.” Historias de pared is, then, a tale of absence.

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