Tag Archives: sophie calle

Friday, sunshine, stuff to do in East London this weekend

Thank god for the sun shining today. I thought I had lived here long enough that the weather no longer affected my mood, but what a difference a bit of sun makes to the public morale. Strangers smiling, opening doors for each other, commenting on the drunkeness of a pair of teenagers stumbling across Mare Street. It was utterly, utterly heartwarming.

Anyway, I’ve finished Wolf Hall and have to sit on my hands until the sequel comes out – my god, talk about leaving us on a cliffhanger! Will the Queen produce an heir? Will Cromwell win Jane Seymour? What the hell is going to go down at Wolf Hall…. well, you sort of know how it all turns out but at the same time the story she has created is so immediate, so vivid, it’s like… I don’t know. It’s as good as The Wire. Continue reading


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Sophie Calle: Talking to Strangers at the Whitechapel Gallery

Hell hath no powers of analysis like a woman dumped. That, anyway, is the message I got from Sophie Calle’s exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery. Calle has made a career out of recording her journeys and experiences, and creating strange experiments and inviting strangers to participate. The first one I knew of was Sleep, when she invited strangers to sleep in her bed, photographed them and asked them to talk about the experience. It’s the kind of art that makes some people roll their eyes. The same people, I imagine, who ‘don’t read poetry.’ What’s the point? they ask in frustration, to which the only answer is, what’s the point of anything?

This project began when she received an email from a lover telling her it was over. He sounds like a real bounder – one line was something along the lines of ‘you always said you didn’t want to be the fourth girlfriend and I am sparing you that indignity by dumping you’. So, like any artist worth her salt, she cannibalises her heartbreak unflinchingly, and comes up smiling – or at least, no longer weeping – with a brilliant new exhibition. Good for her.

She chooses 107 women of various professions and ages to analyse the letter. Sort of what you do with friends when this kind of thing happens, but taken several stages further. And the exhibition is a record of their responses – images of them reading the letter, written reactions to it, video footage of an actor reciting it, even a short story written by a children’s author that makes it into a sort of fairytale. A proofreader marks up repetitions. A young writer boils the email, eats it and declares: it tastes of cowardice. Continue reading

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