New York

Sophie Calle

Paula Cooper Gallery | 534 West 21st Street

There’s nothing in the world like the pain that accompanies the end of a great love affair. In his Fragments d’un discours amoureux (A Lover’s Discourse, 1977), Roland Barthes isolates the way in which this piercing sorrow greets the spurned subject most cruelly in the blurry, semiconscious moments when he or she is roused from sleep. Making reference to the impotent protagonist of Stendhal’s Armance (1827), Barthes lists various manifestations of this unwelcome, if banal, daily return to suffering: “Modes of waking: sad, wracked (with tenderness), affectless, innocent, panic-stricken (Octave comes to, after fainting: ‘All of a sudden his miseries were clear in his mind: one does not die of pain, or he was a dead man at that moment’).”

The strange clarity born of amorous suffering was the focus of Sophie Calle’s project “Exquisite Pain” (2000). Indeed, she, like Octave before her, found

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