When artist Sophie Calle met novelist Paul Auster they turned fiction into reality. Now Calle wants somebody else to invent a life for herby Hettie Judah / June 20, 2001 / Leave a comment
it is a cold spring morning in Chelsea, Manhattan, just at that section where the grimly chic galleries muster themselves on the western edge of the island, as if preparing for a leap into the Hudson. Here, the art is interspersed with auto repair shops, rusting railway bridges and out of date film posters. Standing out against the car yards can be spotted huddles of New York art fanciers disporting themselves in ironic fur coats and deeply serious facial hair.
This Saturday one huddle is especially big and self-conscious. Elements of it are filtering in and out of a glass-fronted gallery. On the walls are a selection of photographs and pieces of text, although unusually there seems to be more text than photographs. There are a dozen large vitrines placed on the floor, each holding an odd assortment of junk: wine bottles, dead flowers, white-goods manuals. Behind a table in the corner sits a diminutive brunette wearing a smart brown suit and bright red plastic spectacles. A line of the art fanciers is obediently queuing to sit down in the chair opposite her for a couple of minutes. The line is broken as a girl with big hair fights through the huddle, shoves a photograph towards the woman in red spectacles and races off. Underneath the photograph she has written, simply, FIND ME. No one seems surprised, least of all the woman in red spectacles.
This is the final day of French artist Sophie Calle’s exhibition “Double Game,” in New York, and as is the way with the cunning world of contemporary art, the goings on in the gallery are themselves part of an artwork, a special event staged by Calle to round off her show. The show itself, however, does not necessarily contain any artworks. Rather, the photographs and pieces of text hung on the walls document other artworks, ones that have happened elsewhere over the last 20-odd years of Calle’s spectral career.
Calle works at that most subtle edge of performance art, where intimate facets of her daily life are conducted as fiction and made public. In the early days she was interested in secretly observing other people. She lived abroad for many years as a young woman, and when she returned to Paris took to tailing pedestrians as a means of relearning her home city. “For months I followed strangers on the street,” she wrote in…