Sophie Calle’s Uncertainty Principle

Luc Sante‘s chapter (p165-167) in M. Iverson (Ed) Chance: documents of contemporary art. (2010) Whitechapel Gallery

Sophie Calle‘s work deals in information, she manipulates it and configures it, it is a commodity central to the economy of our time and our culture. Information as Sante writes it is “the elusive stuff that circulates between conciousness, document and cyberspace.. maddeningly imprecise and unquantifiable ” (p.165). Often when I read about Sophie Calle, it is the autobiographical, personal elements of her work that people are talking about and indeed, that is what first drew me to her work, the immersion of the artist in a conceptual parameter,  in a daily activity, in a routine. Sante speaks of the information itself, it’s relevance to society and economy, it’s history, it’s link to the Surrealists and their fascination with opinion polls. *

Sante splits Calle’s work into two parts, earlier works concerned with narrative and later works connected with image, with language being the main tool of both and the “visual component filling an illustrative role… the objects that stand in for epochal incidents in the artist’s life and the laconic gravestones that reduce entire existences to a mere familial title possess a weight of their own; the referent is almost beside the point. If one were to hear or read a description of Calle’s work [as is generally the case in NZ] and try to reconstruct it on that basis without actually seeing it, it is possible that one might imagine its theme to be the poverty of language or of image, the insufficiency of second-hand experience. Instead her work continually stresses the beauty of imprecision,  the poetry of gaps and lapses” (p.166). Sante likens her work to that of the Impressionists; “uncertainty dapples her pictures the way the sun’s rays spatter the leaves and splash the grassy swards in the Bois De whatever…” (p.166).
Uncertainty in itself is an interesting thing to ponder in today’s times, Sante goes on to talk about the uncertainty of information in the contemporary age and the way that the trade and commerce of information use information as a solid and dependable thing when actual forecasting of such information is a trustworthy as “the divination of bird entrails” (p.167). The idea that information is truth is a central question here, Sante believes that “uncertainty is… the footprint of truth”(167). The truthfulness lies in the not being able to entirely predict or explain, to not-know rather than to know, to trust in the not-knowingness rather than in the certainty of information, to feel a way through the spaces and gaps where narratives abound.



Sophie Calle Take Care of Yourself    for more images click Here

* The aphorist** and Dada Suicide Jacques Rigaut put his own spin on information collection, he carried with him a tiny pair of scissors with which he used to surreptitiously remove a button from the clothing of every person he met. He insisted that this was a form of art collecting (p.165).





**An aphorism statement usually in writing that is an astute observation or a general truth.


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