Sunday 10 September 2017

My All by Sophie Calle     {Reviewed by THOMAS}
In the same way that photography is a crime against time, My All, a retrospective survey of photographer Sophie Calle’s various projects over her thirty-year career, is a crime against retrospective surveys, and for pretty much the same reasons. Calle eschews the magisterial tendencies of retrospective surveys by producing one comprised of 110 loose postcards, thus violating both any expected sequentiality (the cards can be arranged in any order, defeating any attempt at narration or development) and any expected omnitudity (the cards can be send or left out or lost or pinned up with no obvious detriment to the remainder). In doing so, she makes this collection into a project of its own. Almost all of Calle’s work has consisted of constraint-determined experiments (i.e. games) playing with the properties of the photograph as an instant wrenched out of time but so strongly implying a narrative that one will be created by the viewer of the image from their own charged mental fields (‘imagination’, in its literal sense). The divergence between the two contexts of the image tells us also something of the operations of memory, which similarly separates instants from the continuums that induced them and builds narratives to support them using disparate, unreliable and often inappropriate materials. All photographs are challenges to narrative and memory, and Calle is remarkable in the subtlety and in which she uses her camera to record and provoke at the edges of the acceptable and the expected. She is often particularly interested in the biographical power of images, and in the place of objects in bridging (or widening) the disjunction between time and the memory of time, between what is seen and what is hidden, between the public/shared and private/personal spheres. Always interested in transgressing limits as a way of understanding the mechanisms of those limits, Calle’s playful rigours move the viewer in and out of contexts and reveal in us motivations and responses that we had perhaps hitherto not suspected.

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