‘I went to Istanbul, a city surrounded by water, I met people who had never seen the sea. I filmed their first time’.
French artist Sophie Calle (1953) portrayed in fourteen films, the work Voir la mer (2011), people who had never seen the sea before. Fifteen individuals of different ages, from children to one man in his 80s. Originated from central Turkey they were instructed to look at the sea. They could take their time, for some it was five minutes and for others fifteen. When they were ready they had to show the artist their faces, faces that had just seen the sea. Each person was filmed from behind, but eventually they turned to the camera revealing the emotions that the experience had evoked. A beautiful and poignant record.
Calle is an observer of others and of herself, in all its capacities. For more than three decades she has made her life and that of others her works (even the most intimate moments). Using different media, her books, photographs, videos and objects form a diary, a record of her life and her encounters with others.
Her work is a personal document. Or could that be misleading? Her work evokes ambivalence. You tend to question the truth of her stories. She likes to take different identities as author, performer and character. She invents or lures games and rituals to pass time and initiates social exchange which in turn deceives and delights her audience. Fact and fiction are mixed and it is hard to figure out where they merge into one another. Her work is light and even poetic sometimes, then it is tragicomical. She makes us privy to her stories, but at the same time she keeps us away and gives us the space for own interpretation. Sophie Calle is a bit of a mystery, but an interesting one for sure.