Sophie Calle's Room With a View

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Sophie Calle
Sophie Calle© Tara Darby

AnOther catch up with celebrated conceptual artist Sophie Calle to talk about the view from her window

France’s most celebrated conceptual artist, Sophie Calle has been meticulously recording her exploits since 1979. Since then, a boundless sense of exploration and curiosity has driven her to follow strangers around Paris, secretly taking photographs of them; gaining employment as a chambermaid at a Venice hotel, taking pictures of their messied rooms and inviting people to sleep in her bed. Poised between between private and collective experience, the resulting images and text form the basis of her work. She has represented France at the Venice Biennale, been internationally exhibited and the subject of Paul Auster’s novel Leviathan. This year she made a film to accompany Walk it Back, a song from REM’s latest album Collapse into Now featuring footage from her iPhone. One to consistently find something extraordinary in the apparently mundane, AnOther met up with Calle at this year’s Istancool Festival to talk about the view from her window.

Can you describe the view from your window?
My room's window overlooks a prairie. In the prairie there are some bulls with oxpeckers on them. On the left, I can see the branches of a willow tree. Far away, a there is a row of Fraxinus and Tamarix. Sometimes I see an Aigrette, sometimes a white stork. Nothing special. However, somehow, the prairie is 'glowing'.

What is particular about that view for you?
My eyes will never look at anything as long as I’ve been looking out that window. I’ve seen people, my parents, my cats, for sixteen years, but the window doesn’t move which means it is a frame. It’s like watching a painting for hours and hours. This prairie, framed by the window, is the picture my eyes would have photographed the most. The sight of my life.

So is it about a sense of time, place and space rather than the view itself?
There is an expression in architecture that Le Corbusier used that says l’espace indicible (ineffable space). For me the view is this kind of space. You can explain why such a monument is beautiful, because it is spectacular, because it is rare; you can speak of the beauty of certain things. But the idicible space is a space where there is mystery. There is nothing incredible. It is not a great architecture. It’s kind of banal. It is beautiful but you don’t know why, it’s just this matter of space and miracle of grace.