French artist Sophie Calle (born 1957) is one of the best-known names in contemporary conceptual art. Her exhibition at the Helsinki City Art Museum’s Tennis Palace galleries comprised 10 photographs taken in Berlin from the series The Detachment (1996) and the video work Double Blind (1992), which was made in collaboration with Gregory Shephard.
The Detachment is a document of the change that has taken place in Germany in the wake of its reunification. It is a series of photographs taken at the sites of monuments that have been removed and of the emptiness that remains. She has also interviewed local residents and asked about their sentiments, special relationship with the monuments and statues, and the emotions and thoughts caused by their removal. These words, documented together with the images, are an account of longing and sorrow, disgust and victory and, most importantly, of the importance of remembering. The people met by Calle lived in a particular location set apart by these statues and symbols. Their removal altered the scale of these locations and emphasized the presence of what had been made invisible.
Double Blind is a road movie documenting a journey across the United States made in a run-down Cadillac by a couple - Calle and Shephard - who are almost complete strangers to one another. Along the way they visit for example Bruce Nauman’s home in the Midwest. Both carry a video camera to film each other on the road, in motels, people’s homes and in the American landscape. They got married in Las Vegas: “I married for love, by husband married to get a climax for the movie”.
Calle creates fiction from her life and the lives of other people, investigating human behaviour and reactions. She seduces, documents and collects bits of information. Her method is detached and almost clinical, and it does not focus on the object as such but on the memories, desires and emotions people have about it. She takes an active role and her actions turn into art – conceptual art of the most charming kind.
This exhibition has not been displayed before in this format. It was produced by the Helsinki City Art Museum in collaboration with Electronic Arts Intermix, New York, Galerie Arndt & Partner, Berlin, and AV-arkki.