Research Point – Sophie Calle and Sophy Rickett

This was the first piece of course work where I successfully used the UCA online library. I was already familiar with both pieces of work – Sophie Calle via my Foundation Course and Sophy Ricket via a comment made on my work with pregnancy tests for EYV A3 The Decisive Moment.

Sophie Rickett’s work Objects in the Field comprises series of photographs, a video and text. It was made at the Institute of Astronomy in the University of Cambridge. The photographs include prints from black and white negatives from a telescope designed by Dr Willstrop. Dr Willstrop made about 125 negatives over a two year period before the telescope was converted to make digital images. He also wrote captions for some of Rickett’s images and recorded her writing.

Sophie Calle’s “Take Care of Yourself” is a massive multimedia work. She was emailed by a boyfriend, finishing their relationship because he needed to continue seeing other women. Calle’s (rather appropriate in my view) response was to send the email to many other women asking them to respond to it in their professional capacity and to be photographed or filmed. 107 women responded.

I appreciated these works the first time around and I find myself even more engaged with them now, with the benefit of more learning and reading. Both sets work with different ways of understanding the subject. They set up almost a push/pull dynamic with the object remaining untouched in the middle but with different perspectives and readings of the same object made possible. In Calle’s case we are presented with a kaleidoscope of readings of a very personal document from over 100 perspectives whereas Rickett works with a nominally more accessible subject to present science on one side, art on the other. In both cases the additional views add to our total understanding.

I think they both reflect post modern approaches to narrative very neatly. Both demonstrate shared authorship. Rickett’s sharing is smaller in nature – with Willstrop whereas Calle shares her authorship with Mr X and 107 other women. In a way though she’s sharing authorship with everyone who’s ever been dumped, we can all bring something to that party and can all contribute to our reading of her work. Rickett is exploring the universe in her work, Calle is exploring a universal experience and response in hers. Both are huge, continuing concepts that do not fit the traditional narrative structure. Both artists incorporate other peoples texts and responses, and both set of work are unresolved in narrative terms. How do we resolve the universe? How do we resolve a failed relationship? In both cases, there is so much that we don’t know and can’t even try to guess at.

My reading on the UCA library site turned up a very interesting view of the Calle work as an archive (Edwards, 2014), and also considered the nature of the archive (the Calle exhibition has toured, and is now effectively a trans-national archive as well as a personal one). It was showed in a French national archive, which is very interesting for a personal archive.

Natalie Edwards Accumulation and Archives: Sophie Calles Prenez Soin de vous.  Studies in Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Literature 38.2 (summer 2014).

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