Monday, May 27, 2013

Sophie Calle's "Address Book"

From Sophie Calle's introduction:

"Paris, End of June 1983
I found an address book on the Rue des Martyrs.
I decided to photocopy the contents before sending it back anonymously to its owner, whose address is inscribed on the endpaper. I will contact the people whose names are noted down. I will tell them, 'I found an address book on the street by chance. Your number was in it. I'd like to meet you.' I'll ask them to tell me about the owner of the address book, whose name I'll only reveal in person, if they agree to meet me.
Thus, I will get to know this man through his friends and acquaintances. I will try to discover who he is without ever meeting him, and I will try to produce a portrait of him over an undetermined length of time that will depend on the willingness of his friends to talk about him - and on the turns taken by the events...."

The subject (Pierre D.) recently died, enabling Sophie Calle to publish The Address Book. I talk about this work frequently in my classes and as an inspiration for the ongoing "artist stalking" series so it was a must own book for my collection.

Immediately noticeable is the form - it refers to the original address book in terms of scale, the black cord that holds the pages together and the color. In the first entry, Calle lists the facts (of course this would appeal to my organizational nature and the desire to know how things are represented numerically):

The book addresses Calle's "fear of the first contact" and how she selected who to approach. Given the year this action took place (1983 = long before the Internet invaded everyone's privacy), many of the people are more than happy to talk to Calle about Pierre D. There are some who flat out refuse (thankfully Pierre does have some friends within all those contacts).

What is so interesting is how obsolete a physical address book is these days. It is much easier to find out information about someone than it was in the early 1980s and an action like this most likely would not take place in this manner today.

My favorite part of the book (which I was not aware of before reading the publication) is that Calle visits his domicile. Calle's learned through his contacts that Pierre was working out of town for a few weeks in the Lapland and she seized the opportunity to learn where he lived.

"Here is the main door, the entryway to the building. There is no concierge, just a panel with the names of the tenants. Next to 'Pierre D. Building A. 5th floor, Right,' there is another name: 'V." and no first name. I enter the courtyard. Building A is on the left. It has a narrow stairway. The paint is peeling off, the ceiling crumbling.... On his door, Pierre has thumb-tacked an honor roll with his name on it. There is a white doorbell button. What if he has postponed or cancelled his departure? His neighbor on the same floor opens his door a crack and peers at me."

Like so many of her projects, as soon as Calle is done with the series, her interest wanes and she moves on to something else.

In terms of the "Artist Stalking" series, I thought it was far more humorous to only have photographs of male artists' homes. I would only add one woman if I found out her address and that is Sophie Calle. Wonder of all wonders, I learned about a month ago where Sophie lives. Perhaps my next trip to Europe will feature a photograph of her house.

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