Sophie Calle’s ‘Take Care of Yourself’
Example of ‘relay’ in contemporary photographic practice
Sophie Calle was dumped by her boyfriend, by email, and was heartbroken. After a couple of days she had the idea to turn the email into art; a form of therapy and way of coping. Calle asked over a hundred professional women to interpret the email in keeping with their work. So, for instance, a copy editor analysed the grammar, and an etiquette consultant analysed the boyfriend’s manners; a lawyer defended the boyfriend’s actions and a mediator tried to secure a reconciliation, etc.
Investigate the rational behind the work and see if you can find any critical responses to it
The reason for the work was therapy at first and her way of ‘dealing with the suffering the world throws at her’ (Chrisafis, 2017). Calle had previously turned to art when she learned that her mother only had a month to live. She was so concerned with being there at the end that she set up a camera to catch the last moment if for some reason she wasn’t there when her mother died. With her project ‘Take Care of Yourself’, Calle’s network of 107 ‘colleagues’ may have served as a support group in turning the pain into a physical object that enables a distance to be put between the event and the suffering. The project itself would have been a distraction and a focus to move her attention away from her grief; a purging of emotion.
Clare Harris at the Artists Information Company says that the work is ‘an emotional incident that before our eyes has been objectified and neatly dismembered, in a sense worked through by a sisterhood of supporters’ . (The Artists Information Company, 2017)
Write down your own responses
I was fascinated to read that one of the 107 women, a markswoman ‘simply shot the letter’. (The Artists Information Company, 2017). To me this epitomised the vast range of different interpretations of the email. When my sister’s husband ‘dumped’ her about sixteen years ago she was devastated and I remember that she kept all the letters, cards and emails that she received from family and friends who wrote of their support and sent their thoughts. I can see this now as a way of coping, of having something tangible as a cathartic release and as grief being ‘worked through by a sisterhood of supporters’.
How does this work reflect post modern approaches to narrative
Postmodernist rejected a linear approach to narrative and embraced fragmentation and stream of consciousness, different interpretations and ambiguity. Calle’s work reflects the post modern approach by considering a multitude of opinions and many different art forms. The work includes 107 outsiders’ interpretations of the email, performers acted out the email, singers were filmed, there are multiple different papers used, booklets, envelopes, film and images. The work brings together 107 different ways of seeing the same event.
It is not an exhibit that one can easily slip into. Disheartened, to find myself battling to read and understand the responses; the intellect and expertise of some of the women soared above my head. As well as being at times visually difficult, particularly the presentation high on the wall, the choice of font, context of language, overlays of writing and the use of perspex hindered my progress as I struggled to read and digest some of the information
(The Artists Information Company, 2017)
Reading this review section above I immediately thought of the work of Virginia Woolf. Her modernist novels are also difficult to interpret and are ( I want to say eclectic, but I’m not sure if that is right) perhaps I mean ‘refracted’, with ideas going off at tangents and characters’ soliloquies jumping from one to the other (like in The Waves). Calle’s project utilises many interpretations to give a complexity and freedom of expression and layering that is typical of a post modern approach.
See an interview with the artist below
The Artists Information Company. (2017). Sophie Calle, Take Care of Yourself – a-n The Artists Information Company. [online] Available at: https://www.a-n.co.uk/reviews/sophie-calle-take-care-of-yourself [Accessed 12 Oct. 2017].
Chrisafis, A. (2017). Interview: Sophie Calle. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2007/jun/16/artnews.art [Accessed 12 Oct. 2017].