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The Hotel, Room 12
Sophie Calle (French, born Paris, 1953)
silver dye bleach print; gelatin silver print
Frame: 105.4 × 144.8 cm (41 1/2 × 57 in.), each
Purchase, Jennifer and Joseph Duke Gift, 2001
Rights and Reproduction:
© Sophie Calle 1983
Not on view
Using the look and language of the forensic report, Calle presents evidence of her quixotic pursuits of the ineffable and evanescent. While obviously indebted to the deadpan photo-text combinations of Conceptualism, her art is as purely French at its core as the novels of Marguerite Duras and the films of Alain Resnais-an intimate exploration of memory, desire, and obsessive longing.
In early 1981 the artist was hired as a chambermaid in a Venetian hotel. For three weeks, she photographed the contents of the twelve rooms under her care-opening unlocked luggage, cataloguing personal effects, reading mail and journals-and kept extensive notes of her discoveries. These investigations resulted in twenty-one works collectively titled L'Hotel. All of the elements of Calle's art-from the voyeuristic of private and public spheres to the use of serial, repetitive structures-are present here in embryonic form. Most important, the artist compounds of various modes of apprehension (image and narrative) in order to point out their inevitable weaknesses, the unbridgeable chasm between observer and observed, the self and the other.