12 September – 18 October 1997
Suite Vénitienne (1980-96):
For months I followed strangers on the street. For the pleasure of following them, not because they particularly interested me. I photographed them without their knowledge, took note of their movements, then finally lost sight of them and forgot them.
At the end of January 1980, on the streets of Paris, I followed a man whom I lost sight of a few minutes later in a crowd. That very evening, quite by chance, he was introduced to me at an opening. During the course of our conversation, he told me he was planning an imminent trip to Venice.
Sophie Calle’s work is inseparable from her life, and often relies on coincidence to generate its content. Suite Vénitienne opens with the above text, and proceeds to document Calle’s pursuit of a man through a seemingly labyrinthine Venice, in a detailed photographic and written report that captures and orders the full range of feelings the endeavour provokes in her. At times, she loses trace of the man altogether, or conversely, or finds herself face-to-face with him; Calle likens the excitement of the chase to the thrill of being in love.
Suite Vénitienne is a confession of desire; it holds our rapt attention as it unfolds, exposing intimate secrets in a detached, factual manner. Calle employs the standard tools of Conceptual art: black and white photographs and texts—but to different ends. Whereas conceptual artists used these techniques to record perceptions of language, time and space as objectively as possible, for Calle they function as a means to register a range of subjective, psychological response. Her use of the diaristic entry, the snapshot, confession and surveillance has greatly influenced much contemporary work concerned with self-documentation and the investigation of ritual, fantasy, anticipation and desire.