“I realized it was their own mother they were seeing”


Rachel/Monique, 2010. © ADAGP, 2010. Courtesy of Emmanuel Perrotin

From Art in America:

PFEIFFER:  You have produced numerous pieces and shows about your mother. Why did you decide to work on her again?

CALLE: Because I realized that she had traveled through my work everywhere except New York and Paris, which were her two favorite cities. Showing the film of her death was feasible in a smaller gallery, surrounded with other works, but in such a space, it didn’t work on its own and so I looked for pieces to accompany it. And since I have many pieces linked to my mourning of my mother, I could put up an entire show.

PFEIFFER:  What would your mother’s reaction have been?

CALLE: If I did it, it’s because I knew she would have liked it. She liked to be the center of attention; she would have loved to see her name on the poster. You see her dying calmly, softly, imperceptibly. If she had died in pain, I would have never showed that. I did this show because it was in my nature to do it, and because to me it was homage, not an instrumentalization of her corpse.

PFEIFFER:  Is the show inevitably addressing every viewer’s own mother?

CALLE: You tell me. I was talking to mine, but if I’m addressing everyone’s mother, that’s wonderful. My starting point was mine, I wanted to think about her and show her. But when I saw people’s reaction, in Venice or here, I realized it was their own mother they were seeing. I heard people crying, I saw a woman who stayed there for two hours and who I had to take out of the show myself.

“All About Her Mother: Sophie Calle”, Alice Pfeiffer, Art in America