“The Abuse of Power and Indiscretion": Identity, Mourning and Control in the Work of Sophie Calle.
Thesis DisciplineArt History
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
At the 52nd Venice Biennale in 2007, French artist, Sophie Calle presented for public consumption a starkly simple yet elegant work entitled Pas Pu Saisir La Mort. The work was not only a comprehensive investigation of the Biennale theme for that year of capturing a fleeting moment in life but was also an ethically challenging and confrontational piece. Calle chose to display a video loop from the final moments of her mother Monique Sindler's life. As the title in a childlike manner informs the viewer, the subject of the work is Calle's inability to physically comprehend this moment. She, to add in the poignantly missing referent to the English translation of the title, “couldn't capture death”. Calle prompts the audience not only to watch but to actively look for the universally ungraspable moment of Monique's passing. Pas Pu Saisir La Mort is unique piece which both characterises Calle's work while also marking a departure from her normal style of working. It raises challenging issues of the ethical responsibilities of the contemporary art Biennale and of a more moral nature for the audience by placing them in the intimate role of voyeur. At the centre of aesthetic theory and within contemporary art writing the idea of a connection to universal concepts or notions of an underlying humanity within art is referenced, debated and negated. I believe in Pas Pu Saisir La Mort Calle engages with this discussion through foregrounding the idea of the contemporary sublime and re-evaluates art's connection to modernist universals as illuminated though the recent work of Thierry De Duve in particular his concept of 'nous voici' or work with speaks to the 'we' of humanity.