Sophie Calle – Talking to Strangers. Where curiosity becomes art.

Museum De Pont, Tilburg until 16 May
After appearing at the Whitechapel Gallery in London we’re now fortunate enough to be able to see the work of French artist Sophie Calle here in North Brabant at the De Pont museum in Tilburg.
Sophie Calle is now an established figure on the world’s art scene after a career lasting 30 years. The exhibition currently showing is created from work she’s produced since 1979 and, in my opinion, one visit might not be enough to do it justice.
Calle’s oeuvre is a reflection of her personal experiences portrayed in words and images. Suite Vénitienne (1980) is a typical example of the motivation behind her projects. Calle followed a man, a complete stranger, from the streets of Paris to Venice, where she stayed for 13 days interviewing the people he talked to and taking pictures of the same subjects he photographed.
Another project, The Address Book (1983), was based on a diary Calle found on the street. Through information found in the book she contacted some of the friends and aquaintances of the unknown individual and asked them to describe the owner of the diary.

 She was herself used as the source for the artist ‘Maria’ who is the main character in the American writer Paul Auster’s book Leviathan (1992). Like Calle, Maria follows randomly chosen people around, sometimes to the extent of scouring their hotel rooms.
As you can imagine, the methodology used by Calle can begin to take on a life of its own. For example, who is the owner of the resulting work? Where do you cross the line between creativity and privacy? Fascinating dilemma’s to ponder as you admire the results.
Most of the earliest examples shown in De Pont are black and white photographs combined with text. Later work is much larger, more colourful and typographically engaging. Fortunately for those of you who don’t speak French or Dutch, the content has been translated into English.I strongly recommend a visit (or two).
I’d also like to add a recommendation for the De Pont museum itself.In my opinion De Pont is the best modern art museum in the southern half of the Netherlands, surpassing comparable alternatives for the status such as Eindhoven’s own Van Abbe museum and Maastricht’s Bonnefanten. And I’m not just referring to the content of the exhibitions. Unlike these purpose built structures the De Pont is a converted textile factory. Instead of this being an obstacle – a hindrance – for the presentation of artworks, the wonderful reconstruction has created the ideal ambiance for displaying contemporary art. This includes an enormous open space, or hall, for the larger pieces and numerous ‘cells’ that are perfect for subsidiary items. And all this has been achieved without loosing the character and charm of the original building.
Review by Geoff Naylor

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