I am obsessed with the artist Sophie Calle. I was first exposed to her in an exhibition at Mass MOCA in 1999 and I have been hungry for more ever since. That exhibition included photographs and diary entries from a stint where she pursued a monochromatic diet (i.e. she ate only pink food for a week, followed by only white food…), photographs and writing from a stint as a maid in a Paris hotel (primarily of the personal effects she encountered in the rooms she ‘cleaned’), and photographs and writing collected by a private investigator who Calle had entreated her mother to hire to follow Calle. Other work I’ve been fascinated by since then includes a late 1980s phone booth installation in lower Manhattan where she offered snacks, pillows, dimes, and positive aphorisms for passersby looking for some TLC and/or connection.
On Friday I visited the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest uptown forher latest exhibition, “Rachel, Monique,” which is inspired by the loss of her mother. The exhibit presents a variety of elements; photos, audio, diary entries, and a video: Couldn’t Capture Death. On this video, you see the last chest expansion, and then, several minutes later the rituals of letting go: stunned stillness, checking for pulse and breath, tender kisses on the cheek, ultimately – one version of the spiritually ineffable.
Ever since I was first exposed to Calle – I felt a deep artistic kinship with her. We are both insatiably curious about strangers’ private lives, and especially the clues people’s personal effects tell us about them. Like Calle, I prefer an immersive installation experience in my art, rather than a traditional ‘framing.’ I am also interested in excavating the deepest depths of my and my collaborators’ personal lives and psyches for public consumption. I am influenced by her playfulness and sense of humor, as well as her willingness to probe and confront the most challenging feelings and concepts through art.