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Sophie Calle: Turning Love Backwards

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Jenny Zhao.

Sophie Calle is known for her works based around ritual (Le Régime chromatique (1997), Rituel d’anniversaire (1980-1993)) and absent others (L’Hôtel (1981), Le Carnet d’adresses (1983)). Most recently, her work has turned to the death of her father (Beau doublé, Monsieur le marquis! (2017)) and the death of her cat, Souris (Souris Calle (2018)), but the pullulation of exhibitions emerging in the wake of Calle’s mother’s diagnosis of breast cancer has so far been unparalleled.

My talk will examine Calle’s ongoing preoccupation with her mother’s death, looking particularly at Rachel, Monique… (2017) which is the physical embodiment of the many exhibitions stemming from the final months of her mother’s life, and the aftermath of her death. It considers the extent to which the daughter’s portrayal of her mother might be doomed to failure, or even to be read as an erasure in itself. It will suggest that Calle is faced with the paradox inherent in the attempt to capture her mother’s essence, impossible to ‘solidify’, and showing itself only through ‘the flux of action and speech’ (Arendt 1998: 181). It looks at how Calle acknowledges this impossibility within her work, confronting and highlighting the difficulty of representing the other, rather than reaching towards fixed meaning and closure.

This talk is part of the Darwin College Humanities and Social Sciences Seminars series.

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