“For the pleasure of following”: distance and nearness in Suite Vénitienne


May 5th, 2015


Sophie Calle’s Suite Vénitienne is a play of ever-changing distances; between follower and followed, reality and fiction, photographer and photographed, presence and absence, artist and subject, self and other. Her decision to follow Henri B., arbitrary and contingent, assures that even as she develops this strange and invasive intimacy, she remains ultimately detached. He and she remain strangers even as their actions become fused. Because, as Calle knows, to be a voyeur you must constantly waver between proximity and distance:  you must be far enough away to not be seen yet close enough to see. To photograph you must be on the other side of the camera and yet near enough to capture your subject. When you follow you at once surrender and take ownership. To follow her lead, this thread of quotation approaches as it retreats, winding toward something that is both very near to, and far from, Calle.

—Googie Karrass



When his mind was absent, I followed him, yes I, in strange and complicated actions, very far, good or bad: I was certain of never entering his world.

—Arthur Rimbaud, A Season in Hell 


What woman hasn’t flown/stolen?

—Hélène Cixous, Laugh of the Medusa








[T]o photograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves, by having knowledge of them they can never have; it turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed.

—Susan Sontag, On Photography


One might simplify this by saying : men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object – and most particularly an object of vision: a sight.

—John Berger, Ways of Seeing









The essence of the image is to be altogether outside, without intimacy, and yet more inaccessible and mysterious than the thought of the innermost being; without signification, yet summoning up the depth of any possible meaning; unrevealed yet manifest, having that absence-as-presence which constitutes the lure and the fascination of the Sirens.

—Roland Barthes quoting Maurice Blanchot, Camera Lucida


Clues or evidences are the most relentless plot holes; they can even linger after a story fades away.

—Reza Negarastani, Cyclonopedia


We speak suggesting that something not being said is speaking: the loss of what we were to say.

—Maurice Blanchot, Writing the Disaster









The Girl: Who are you?

David Locke: I used to be someone else, but I traded him in. Uh, what about you?

—The Passenger


A clandestine passenger on a motionless voyage. To become like everybody else; but this, precisely, is a becoming only for one who knows how to be nobody, to no longer be anybody. To paint oneself gray on gray.

—Gilles Deleuze & Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus









If I am to follow this suite [si je suis cette suite], and everything in what I am about to say will lead back to the question of what “to follow” or “to pursue” means, as well as “to be after,” back to the question of what I do when “I am” [je suis] or “I follow,” [je suis] when I say “Je suis,” if I am to follow this suite then, I move from “the ends of man,” that is the confines of man, to “the crossing of borders”….

—Jacques Derrida, “The Animal That Therefore I Am (More to Follow)”


But there is no single scent, no single body for me to follow.  And I have no face.

—Virginia Woolf, The Waves


Selection is an infinite task, as when you enter a foreign city and follow the arrows indicating the Zentrum, the centro citta, until you lose them, the absence of indication indicating that you are at the center and rather that there is no center.

—Jean-François Lyotard, Driftworks









[W]hen your life becomes a work of art, you are not the cause of it. I mean that at this point you feel your own life and yourself as something “thought,” but the subject, the author, is no longer there.

Giorgio Agamben interview with Ulrich Raulff


Perhaps what any audience, educated or uneducated to prevailing taste, comes away with from a good or great work or body of art is awe at the obsession, the total commitment, the time spent, the single-mindedness resulting in some kind of beauty.

—Lucy Lippard, “Hanne Darboven: Deep in Numbers”