hardback, 5.5 × 8 in.
96 pages, 56 bw and 4 color
published in 2015
In her pursuit of strangers, the French artist Sophie Calle presents a kind of artistic Zeno’s paradox: the closer you get to someone else, the more you realize the distance separating you.
—Madeline Schwartz, New York Review of Books
In Suite Vénitienne, Sophie Calle’s first artist’s book, she notates, in diaristic, time-stamped entries, her surveillance of Henri B. in Venice. She also carefully observes her own emotions as she searches for, finds and follows him. Intentionally losing herself as she wanders the labyrinthine streets of Venice, the city becomes a repository of her desires. She must remind herself that while it feels like she’s in love, she is not; that his elusivity may be more appealing than actually knowing him; and that the gap is wide between her own thoughts and his, which she cannot know.
Her investigation is both methodical (calling every hotel, visiting the police station) and arbitrary (sometimes following a stranger—a flower delivery boy, for instance—hoping someone might lead her to him). She sometimes tells the truth (when she enlists Venetian friends of her own friends who lend a phone, a look-out point, and make inquiries on her behalf). And sometimes she does not, inventing stories to entice strangers to come to her aid.
Once she does find him and follows him, “what we see,” as Larry Rinder writes in his essay “Sophie Calle and the Practice of Doubt,” “is not the object in closer view but the measure of the distance in between.” Henri B., as he wanders and photographs Venice often in the company of another woman, is still an enigma whom Calle observes from the semi-obscurity of the shadows where she hides in disguise. Once he confronts her—after she has ventured too close—he tells her she should’ve masked her eyes which is what ultimately gave her away.
This Siglio reissue is a completely new iteration of Suite Vénitienne, designed in collaboration with Calle, to be the definitive English-language edition. Printed on Japanese paper with a die-cut hard cover and gilded edges, this new, beautiful Siglio edition allows readers to devour this compelling and crucial work.
about the author
SOPHIE CALLE (b. 1953) 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 most recent exhibition is at Musée d’Orsay in Paris, where she also lives and works.
✼ ex libris:
“Multiplicity and distance or void wasn’t an affected practice on Johnson’s part; they were the very lenses of his reality.” —Elizabeth Zuba, from her introduction to Not Nothing: Selected Writings by Ray Johnson[...]