Walking, Following, stalking in Venice
Suite Vénitienne by Sophie Calle consists of black and white photographs, texts and maps that document a journey the artist made to Venice in order to follow a man, referred to only as Henri B., whom she had previously briefly met in Paris. Although Calle undertook the journey in 1979, the texts describe the actions as taking place in 1980.
Who is Sophie Calle?
Sophie Calle is an artist of the unexpected: exploring what it is to be an observer and to be observed. She stalks and she writes down her findings with the precision of a police report or a psychiatrist’s case notes. Her work – which ranges from photography and film to performance and installation – has electrified the Paris art scene with its quest-like intensity.Sophie Calle’s practice is characterised by performances using rule-based scenarios, which she then documents.
The pleasure of follow
Venetian Suite records Calle’s attempts to track her subject over the course of his thirteen-day stay in Venice. She investigates and stalks him, enlisting the help of friends and acquaintances she makes in the city. Eventually Henri B. recognises Calle, and they share a silent walk. Even after this encounter Calle continues her project, shadowing Henri B. from a distance until his arrival back in Paris.
Your eyes, I recognize your eyes, that’s what you should have hidden.
I Decided to follow him
Indeed for months she followed strangers on the street. For the pleasure of following them, not because they particularly interested her. She photographed them without their knowledge, took note of their movements, then finally lost sight of them and forgot them. At the end of January 1980, on the streets of Paris, she followed a man whom I lost sight of a few minutes later in the crowd. That very evening, quite by chance, he was introduced to her at an opening. During the course of our conversation, he told her he was planning an imminent trip to Venice.
The work was initially produced in book form in 1983; the same year Calle also presented the work as a sound installation in a confessional booth. In 1996 she configured Suite Vénitienne as a gallery-based work, the appearance of which deliberately recalls a detective casebook, with texts written in a style that mimics and deconstructs the narrative tension typical of detective novels or film noir.