cloth, 6 × 8 in.
248 pages, 12 color and 200 bw
First edition available here, 2nd printing everywhere else.
[The] book … for Calle is a multivalent, carnal location … You do not read The Hotel: you step into it, lie down, feel and smell the personal items of the unwitting guests Calle, posing as a maid in 1981, documented with her camera and daily writing.
—Lucy Ives, Frieze
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 readings materials, their clothes. 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Calle on a completely new design, Siglio has included larger, enhanced reproductions as well as a number of previously unpublished photographs in The Hotel.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.
Read an excerpt in Harper’s Magazine
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 large-scale solo exhibtion À toi de faire, ma mignonne, opens October 3, 2023 at Musée national Picasso-Paris and runs through January 7, 2024.
more by sophie calle
Artforum Top Ten of 2021
Rather than erase the residue of human presence, as a “real” maid is expected to, Calle does the opposite, preserving every stain and scrap as a sign or symbol. But of what? This is the question at the heart of Calle’s work, and the answer may hardly be the point; what interests her most is the seduction and projection involved in knowing another person—how fantasy intervenes in every attempt to see and be seen.
—Lili Owens Rowland, New Yorker
The Hotel documents Calle’s experiences while also probing complex relationships between photography, discretion, instinct, and appetite. Indeed, why as photographers we often lean into snooping and sneaking … Calle proves that few if any spaces are ours and ours alone.
—Odette England, Photo-Eye
[The Hotel] relies on bold, at times dizzying acts of exposure and inquiry. Its set-up is very much in keeping with Calle’s aesthetics: so apparently matter-of-fact, so simple — yet encoded with overlapping layers of complexity.
—David Ulin, Los Angeles Times
Calle’s laconic prose is achingly resonant. After all the attention lavished on the unsightly mess that makes us, a sense of unbearable transience suddenly trumps the weight of detritus—a déjà vu haunted by mortality.
—Ellen Bittencourt, Artforum
The reviews above are very much worth reading in their entirety. More, too, in the Times Literary Supplement, Art Agenda, Bookforum, Hyperallergic, Poets & Writers, Publishers Weekly, Elephant, Dazed, Vanity Fair, and Wallpaper*.
“In my opinion, genre is a way of speaking about conventions of reading and looking, where you sit or stand and whether you’re allowed to talk to other people or move around while you’re communing with an object or text.” —Lucy Ives, from her interview with Karla Kelsey in Feminist Poetics of the Archive at Tupelo Quarterly[...]