She would set out in the dark, knowing absolutely nothing, and one by one she would talk to all the people listed in the book. By finding out who they were, she would begin to know something about the man who had lost it. It would be a portrait in absentia, an outline drawn around an empty space . . . . She wanted encourage people to open up to her when she saw them, to tell her stories about enchantment and lust and falling in love, to confide their deepest secrets in her.
I found an address book on the Rue des Martyrs . . . I will contact the people whose names are noted down. I will tell them, “I found an address book on the street by chance. Your number was in it. I’d like to meet you.” . . . Thus, I will get to know this man through his friends and acquaintances. I will try to discover who he is without ever meeting him.
—from The Address Book by Sophie Calle
Having found a lost address book on the street in Paris, artist Sophie Calle copied the pages before returning it anonymously to its owner. She then began contacting the people—in essence, following him through the map of his family, friends, lovers, and acquaintances.
Calle’s written accounts of these encounters—juxtaposed with her photographs—originally appeared as serial in the French newspaper Libération over the course of one month in 1983. Now, The Address Book, a key and controversial work in Calle’s oeuvre, is being published for the first time in its entirety in English as a beautiful trade edition artist’s book, designed in collaboration with the artist.
As The Address Book entries accumulate, so do the vivid impressions of its owner, Pierre D., while suggesting ever more complicated stories as information is gifted, parsed, and withheld. A multitude of details—from the seemingly banal to the potentially revelatory—are collaged into a fragile and strangely intimate portrait of Pierre D.; while Calle, over the course of her pursuit, also turns the interrogation on herself, her own fears, assumptions, and obsessions.
Part conceptual art, part character study, part confession, part essay, The Address Book is, above all, a prism through which desire and the elusory, persona and identity, the private and the public, knowledge and the unknown are refracted in luminous and provocative ways.
SOPHIE CALLE is an internationally renowned artist whose controversial works often fuse conceptual art and Oulipian-like constraints, investigatory methods and fictional constructs, the plundering of autobiography and the artful composition of self. Using a range of media—photography, film, writing, performance, installation—Calle explores the tensions between the observed, the reported, the secret, and the unsaid; desire and voyeurism are often agents to expose the multiplicity of truth as well as its absence. Her 2007 Venice Biennale French Pavillion installation Please Take Care of Yourself has been exhibited worldwide to great acclaim. It will be installed at The Pulitzer Foundation in St. Louis later this year. The Whitechapel Gallery in London organized a retrospective in 2009, and her work has been show at major museums such as Musee d’art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; De Appel, Amsterdam; The Museum of Modern Art and The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Hayward Gallery and Serpentine Gallery, London; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; among others. She lives and works in Paris.