24 October 2021

Sophie Calle, Le bathrobe forever!

Sophie Calle forever; I was late to the party in which Sophie Calle bloomed as an artist, woman, and humanist. She eluded my radar for so long. I was too ill-equipped to look at (or understand) her Performance Art because I had seen so much really dreadful Performance Art that I had almost become allergic to it after a certain point. Although I did see some really wonderful stuff here and there, most of it seemed really dumb. And so with that confession I admit that I was myself, blind, deaf and dumb to Sophie Calle until about 20 years ago.

But happily, I have become a fervent, ardent, and besotted admirer of hers, along with many other men (and women too, most certainly). 

She has so many talents that it is hard to know how to begin to describe her as an artist and writer among so many other talents. I will not even try to get into them here. No doubt, she is well known to readers even in this small cubby hole of a corner. 

I have had this small book Les histories vraies for a few years and I re-read from time to time to remind me that there are other wonderful oddballs out there in the world. Her gentle irony avoids the harsh spotlight of so many Performance Artists though she is very well known in artistic circles most everywhere. 

Like other sensitive, curious, and perceptive artists, she sees what is under the shabby rug underfoot because she bothers to lift it up and look. 

A friend of mine, an art critic, who has a very politically-oriented take on art, once referred to Sophie Calle (with a slight smirk) as 'bourgeoise'. Though Ms.Calle is Parisian, and though she has painted a picture of a friendly and comfortable childhood in an affluent neighbourhood, her curious and eccentric sensibility is anything but 'bourgeoise'. Maybe, like so many comfortable families it was a conventional upbringing, but lucky for her that she prospered from a sense of security and balance which allowed her the freedom to go crazy in her creativity. 

She seems to approach her artistic life as a grey empty vessel allowing her a kind of invisibility in order to be fully present without prejudice. It's an unusual way to proceed out in this big, bad but strangely wonderful world, and yes, very zen, it seems to me. And I really like this about her. She approaches her projects as an open page, not dictated by a plate full of concepts but a mind full of questions and a vulnerable heart. 

In her work, so unpredictably varied, she bravely, stoically, ventures forth in search of poetic meaning. I imagine a woman exploring all the levels of life, like in a tall hotel, up and down all the stairwells and elevators, back and forth on each of its floors, invisible to everyone, she is only betrayed by the passing scent of her perfume.  

"I was eighteen. He opened the door. He was wearing a long white spongey bathrobe. He was my first lover. For an entire year he never showed himself nude from the front, hiding his sex. Only his backside. Even the mornings, if it was light, he arose, he turned carefully around to put on the bathrobe. When he left me he left the bathrobe."

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