When a boyfriend broke-up with her by email, French artist Sophie Calle asked 107 women to read the letter and to analyse it according to their professional interest.
It was set to music, re-ordered by a crossword-setter, performed by an actress, and probed by a forensic psychiatrist, amongst others. The resulting artwork called Take Care of Yourself (after the boyfriend's parting words) fills the French Pavilion at the Biennale.
Another example of Calle's ability to create art from the intimate and painful details of her life was also shown in Venice. It took the form of a film recording the dying moments of her mother, while in an adjacent space a statement on the wall explained that on the day that Calle was invited to represent France at the Biennale, she learned that her mother was terminally ill.
Sophie Calle This work began by a real letter, a break-up letter addressed to me by mail. A letter written in such a way that I didn’t know how to answer, it seems very recent. I asked a girlfriend of mine that was there the day I received it, how she would answer such a letter. It gave me the idea immediately to give that letter to a woman to read because I thought it was specifically a letter from a man to a woman. I chose women by their profession. I decided to give the letter to a woman who was used to interpreting. So they were very obtuse at the beginning but as a writer she could study the style and language of the syntax. Then I started to find the most subtle way of interpretation, like the crossword woman that agreed with the words of the letter, poised at mid point with them etc. Because of Venice we are now one year later. I realise the problem of the language in such a work. There is a lot of text, and I try to find another kind of way to interpret the language like a dancer, singer, or actress, to at least make it more accessible. This work is not the only work I have. I am also invited by Rob Storr in the international show where I have a work called Pa Pu Saisir La Mort, which is possible to catch there. The day I learned that I was invited to be in the French Pavilion I also learned that my mother had one month left to live and when I told her about Venice she said, ‘Well I think I won’t be there.’ So I wanted her to be there and I filmed her last hours and here I am showing even the last minute of her life when I didn’t know if she was alive or dead. That moment that I have caught, where you don’t know, you could put your finger, like on the last book, the last mile, the last phrase, the last words, but the last second, the last breath was impossible to catch. But it’s true that when anything happens to me that seems to have a deepness or a shocking aspect, whatever catches my attention, I have a little idea in the back of my head that I may use it sometime. I don’t want anything from the visitors. They are free to do what they want. I cannot give the rules of the game of the project or give the rules of the game for the visitors of how to take it. It is not anymore my problem. I mean it is their territory after all, not mine.