Sophie Calle

After completing her schooling she travelled for seven years. When she returned to Paris in 1979 she began a series of projects to acquaint herself again both with the city and people of Paris and with herself. These sought to construct identities by offering documentary ‘proof’ in the form of photographs. Her work was seen to have roots in the tradition of conceptual art because the emphasis was on the artistic idea rather than the finished object. The French writer Jean Baudrillard wrote an essay (1988) that described this project in terms of a reciprocal loss of will on the part of both pursued and pursuer. Another project, Detective (1980), consisted of Calle being followed for a day by a private detective, who had been hired (at Calle’s request) by her mother. Calle proceeded to lead the unwitting detective around parts of Paris that were particularly important for her, thereby reversing the expected position of the observed subject. Such projects, with their suggestions of intimacy, also questioned the role of the spectator, with viewers often feeling a sense of unease as they became the unwitting collaborators in these violations of privacy. Moreover, the deliberately constructed and thus in one sense artificial nature of the documentary ‘evidence’ used in Calle’s work questioned the nature of all truths.

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