The following blog post is the fifth in a series of Facebook posts I wrote for Women's History Month, and to follow along with the hashtag #5WomenArtists, started by the National Museum of Women in the Arts. These posts were written to be an accessible, informative, and humorous way to encourage friends of mine to engage with art history and feminism.
ALRIGHT FAM LISTEN UP. We're talking about #FiveWomenArtists in celebration of Women's History Month leading up to International Women's Day TOMORROW. This is our FIFTH artist in our series (you'll get a bonus post tomorrow shh), and she's my FAVE.
SOPHIE CALLE, Y'ALL.
It is 1979 and we are in Venice, following a man we'll only refer to as Henri B., whom we met at a party in Paris just a few days prior. Our pal Sophie Calle has shrugged on a trench coat, donned a blond wig and armed herself with a 35mm camera for the task, and she is basically quietly stalking this man all across Venice to see just how far she can take it -- but in a nice way? "I was just trying to play," she later said of the work, "Suite Venitienne."
Our second artist named Sophie in this series, Calle is a French-born performance artist and she is so rad. Her work is conceptual in theme and execution, exploring ideas like intimacy, sexuality, and the private/public space through avenues which might be considered nontraditional (no paintings, prints, or sculptures in sight). Example -- after her own foray into the Private Eye biz (see above), Calle hired her own private investigator (under a pseudonym) to investigate... herself??? This work, "The Shadow," (1981), was Calle's attempt to get "photographic evidence of [her] own existence." Nice. Or in "L'Hotel," (1981) when Calle worked a three-month stint as a maid at a Big Hotel in Paris. She would open up the luggage in the rooms she was sent to clean, photograph their contents, and then try to piece together biographies for the individuals to whom they belonged (see an extract from this series attached). What the heck! Travel safe, folks.
Sophie "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" Calle carries this particular brand of playful voyeurism throughout her body of work, whether she is getting strangers to tell her the worst breakup story they have to help ease the pain of her own painful breakup ("Douleur Exquise," 2003), or replacing paintings in MoMA with descriptions of the paintings, as written by the guards assigned to their rooms ("Ghosts," 1991). Her work is cleverly thought out, and meticulously put together. Sophie Calle is a woman after my own heart. She still practices today, and is the only artist I can think of whose work simultaneously moves me to tears AND makes me go, "What the HECK, Sophie." If you check out no other artist on my list, make it this one.
Check out these posts from the beginning, with a rundown on gender inequality in the arts and our first Sophie on my profile.
Tune in tomorrow for a big old blowout of a recap, celebration, and meditation on badass ladies in art! Happy Women's History Month!