The Hotel

Sophie Calle

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Working as a chambermaid for the Hotel C. in Venice, Italy, Sophie Calle stashes her camera and tape recorder in her mop bucket, so that as she cleans and tidies, she can also sort through the evidence of the hotel guests’ lives. Assigned twelve rooms on the fourth floor, she surveys the state of the guests’ bedding, their books, newspapers and postcards, perfumes and cologne, traveling clothes and costumes for Carnival. She methodically photographs the contents of closets and suitcases, examining the detritus in the rubbish bin and the toiletries arranged on the washbasin. She discovers their birth dates and blood types, diary entries, letters from and photographs of lovers and family. She eavesdrops on arguments and love-making. She retrieves a pair of shoes from the wastebasket and takes two chocolates from a neglected box of sweets, while leaving behind stashes of money, pills, and jewelry. Her thievery is the eye of the camera, observing the details that were not meant for her, or us, to see.

Like her other conceptual projects rooted in surveillance and almost forensic-like observation, The Hotel is one of Calle’s most provocative works, raising questions about our curiosity about the private lives of others and our assumption of our own privacy, about what selected artifacts of our own lives might reveal rightly or wrongly about us, and about how we navigate the known and unknown in lives partially revealed.

The Hotel now manifests as a single, standalone book for the first time in English (it was previously included in the 1999 book Double Game, now long out of print). In collaboration with Calle on a completely new design, Siglio has included larger, enhanced reproductions as well as a number of previously unpublished photographs in The Hotel. As with Siglio’s other collaborations with Calle—The Address Book (2012) and Suite Vénitienne (2015)—The Hotel pays special attention to book as an object and an experience, as one of Calle’s primary media is the book itself: her audience must read image and text, in multiple ways, to fully engage with her work.

 

About Sophie Calle

 

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. The Whitechapel Gallery in London organized a retrospective in 2009, and her work has been show at major museums worldwide, including  Musee d’art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; The Museum of Modern Art and The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Hayward Gallery and Serpentine Gallery, London; among others. She lives and works in Paris.