Sophie Calle, ‘Exquisite Pain, 98 days’, 1984-1999, Galerie Perrotin
  • Sophie: Ninety-eight days ago the man I loved left me. January 25, 1985. Room 261. Imperial Hotel. New Delhi. Enough. - Unknown: The setting is a village in northern Italy. My parents are out. Suddenly, in the night, we hear a cart, voices. My mother comes in. She says my father isn’t well. I look at the face of this man who, two hours ago, was my father, as he lies there, not moving. I hear my mother giving orders. She tells my brother to go fetch some ice. She sends me out for the priest. Everything is speeded up. In the bedroom there is the doctor, the priest, my brother, my mother. I keep my eyes on her. She is my guide. She seems extremely calm. The doctor says the children should leave the room. She refuses: “I want my children to see their father die.” Time goes by, watching this snoring man. The dramatic intensity slowly wanes, replaced by fatigue and a stiff back. I wonder when it will end. He died at exactly four o’clock. When the deep silence settled, my mother opened the window, “to let the soul fly away”. Objectively, it was not a heartbreaking night, but it’s as if a seed had been sown that would later turn into pain. The plant began growing at the funeral. As shame. I could feel people’s pity. “Poor kid, he’s lost his father.” Then came the rage at my brother for crying. He was showing his grief, not me. Later, there was the fear of not being protected, the sadness at my mother’s loneliness, the emptiness… The thousand facets of suffering. And that’s when I felt that tearing, that wrenching in my guts. I was twelve. It was June 18, 1948. His death was not the climax of my pain, it was a time bomb.

About Sophie Calle

A controversial figure as well as one of France’s leading conceptual artists, Sophie Calle explores her own psychological and emotional terrain in multimedia works, probing ideas of control, freedom, gender, intimacy, and distance in human relationships. Perhaps her most contentious work, Address Book (1983) was inspired by an address book that Calle found on the street, photographed, and sent back to its owner. She then rang the numbers in the book to assemble a portrait of the owner, turning the results into a multimedia installation. For Take Care of Yourself (2007), which was exhibited in the French pavilion at the 2007 Venice Biennale, Calle invited 107 women from various walks of life to interpret and assess a breakup note the artist received in an email. In a range of media including photographic portraits, textual analysis, and filmed performances, women pore over the emotional content of the email; contributions include a clairvoyant’s response, a scientific study, and a child’s fairytale.

French, b. 1953, Paris, France, based in Switzerland

Exhibition Highlights On Artsy

Mark My Words, Gemini G.E.L. at Joni Moisant Weyl, New York
The Venetians, Gemini G.E.L. at Joni Moisant Weyl, New York
Icon(s), Maison Particulière, Brussels