Sophie Calle at Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong

Sophie Calle (born 1953) is a French writer, photographer, installation artist, and conceptual artist. Calle's work is distinguished by its use of arbitrary sets of constraints, and evokes the French literary movement of the 1960s known as Oulipo. 
Her work depicts human vulnerability, and examines identity and intimacy. She is recognized for her detective-like ability to follow strangers and investigate their private lives. Her photographic work often includes panels of text of her own writing.
Sophie Calle at Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong
Nov 26, 2014 - Jan 10, 2015
For this exhibition, Calle will cover an entire wall with images from her “Cash Machine” project, which first originated in 1988 and was extended 15 years later with “Unfinished,” a 30-minute film in collaboration with Fabio Balducci. 
“In 1988 an American bank invited me to do a project. Their automatic tellers had video cameras that filmed clients as they went unsuspectingly about their business. I managed to get hold of some recordings. The images were beautiful but I thought if I just used them as found documents, without adding anything of my own, I would be betraying my own style. 
I needed an idea to go with these faces. Fifteen years later I decided to go back over my research, delineate the anatomy of this failure and, at last, free myself of these images. Give up before their presence.” 

For Calle, these images provided a series of surreptitious glimpses into an everyday experience that resembles the act of entering a confession booth all alone to deposit or withdraw one’s money.

From this starting point, she produced the accompanying work “Unfinished”, where she interrogates human bank tellers about their interactions with money, interviews customers at the telling machines about what goes through their minds while the transactions are in progress, scrutinizes security camera footage in an attempt to discern the motivations of the characters caught on film, and attempts to pawn her personal belongings with sentimental value to a bank. Calle gradually succeeds in unraveling an unsettling portrait of our taboo-tinged relationship to money, how commerce is conducted and how value is assessed in modern day urban society.

Also on display in this exhibition is the series “Voir la mer”, “I went to Istanbul, a city surrounded by water, I met people who had never seen the sea. I filmed their first time”, which shows elegiac portraits shot during a trip to Istanbul in 2010. Fifteen residents of the city who had never seen the sea have their astonished reactions captured on film as they partook in this inaugural, life-changing experience. Transforming what would ordinarily have been a simple act into a memorialized ritual, “Voir la mer” captures and relates silently, with only the sound of the sea, the most touching details of an ineffable, seminal experience to someone else.

Nick McArthrur

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