Sophie Calle

10.10.11

Sophie Calle, Room, 2011, mixed media, dimensions variable. Installation view. © Sophie Calle / ADAGP. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.


Thirty years have passed since the inimitable French artist Sophie Calle worked as a chambermaid while making The Hotel, a piece about the tenants of a Venetian inn. For the 2011 Crossing the Line festival, presented by the French Institute Alliance Française, Calle will present Room, an installation of autobiographical work in the Lowell Hotel on New York’s Upper East Side. Room is on view from midnight on Thursday, October 13 until midnight on Sunday, October 16.

THE HOTEL ROOM will have forty or so objects, all from my True Stories project, which is an ongoing work about important events in my life. Parts of this project have been previously published in two books. Depending on the story, visitors will see either the actual object in the hotel room—for instance, my wedding dress—or something that could be evoked from the story, such as a coffee cup.

This project can be exhibited anywhere. It’s been shown before at the Pompidou and the Freud Museum, among other places. But this is the first time I’ve installed it in a hotel. It’s not a specific hotel, but I think that speaks to the way the work can adapt to any setting and how, perhaps, it’s not quite a show or a performance but something in between. It’s more like a roving installation. More like life.

I recently added a new story. It’s about the view from my house in the south of France, a vista I’ve looked at for the past thirty years but one that I only just decided to write about. In the hotel room there will be a text by a window in which I describe the view from my house, but there won’t be an accompanying object, since I’m just speaking about a landscape.

It’s very hard to know how many people will visit. In 2003, when I spent the night in a room set up for me at the top of the Eiffel Tower, for Room with a View, I thought at most one hundred people would come, to tell me a story and to keep me awake. But something like sixteen thousand visited. So suddenly the project was very different than what I imagined. But since this hotel room will be open to the public twenty-four hours a day for three days, and since it is also free, it will be interesting to see what happens. Yes, Christian Marclay’s The Clock was visited all night, but it is a masterpiece and the result of three years’ work. This “room” is not as ambitious! Personally, I would wait ten hours to watch that work, but probably not to see my Room!

This is a long-term project with no definite end. So many of the stories have just popped into my mind after being lost for many years. I’ll keep adding stories until I have nothing left to say, or nothing left to remember.

— As told to Lauren O’Neill-Butler