At the Threshold of Self-Discovery and Artistic Creation: The Case of Sophie Calle in Appointment with Sigmund Freud

Auteur / Author: 
Rosa SAVERINO (Department of French Studies, University of Toronto, Canada)
Mardi 23 Août 2011 - 13:30


Self representation is an integral part of the artistic practice of the French conceptual artist Sophie Calle. For Calle, word and image relations, in particular the collaboration between photography and autobiography, are at the core of her artistic expression. It is through the connections and the tensions that exist between these verbal and visual representations that Calle conceptualizes art as a process of individual exploration and discovery. In Appointment with Sigmund Freud, Calle revisits previously exhibited material with a predominantly autobiographical focus and recontextualizes this work within a new imaginative framework. Within the scope of the exhibit, Calle chooses Sigmund Freud’s former home in London as the site for the artistic installation. She selects personal relics from her past and displays them alongside artifacts from Freud’s personal collection. The photographed objects are accompanied by brief narratives to add context. Through word and image interactions, Calle injects her personal objects with powerful associations to Freud’s life and legacy and provides new insight into her past experiences. By projecting her personal thoughts and desires —
from the most mundane to the most intimate — onto Freud’s intimate space, Calle makes use of Freud’s home to associate the interpretation of identity with complex structures of introspection and self analysis. As the museum’s curator James Putman eloquently puts it — “Sophie Calle’s texts, which reveal her compulsive rituals, obsessions, and fantasies, have inevitable parallels with [the] psychoanalyst’s case book, where memory, imagination, emotion, desire and loss are interwoven.” Inspired by Freud, Calle’s art exhibit stages a form of “talking cure”; by recounting her life stories, the artist enters into a dialogue of “transference” with the absent Freud to engage the reader in new ways of interpreting identity and self. In our study of Calle’s Appointment with Sigmund Freud, we will examine how the artist uses Freud’s intimate space to accentuate the key elements of self disclosure and self awareness in her artistic production.

The study we are proposing will primarily examine word and image relations in Sophie Calle’s Appointment with Sigmund Freud. In our discussion we will refer to the theories of autobiography and photography to illustrate how autobiography, as the privileged form of expression in Calle’s photographic images, acts to portray identity as complex and contradictory. In our analysis of autobiography, we will look to scholars such as George Gusdorf, Marlene Kadar, Philippe Lejeune, and Georges May to discuss the role that self-representation plays in the artistic expression of Sophie Calle. Our discussion on the role of photography in autobiography will draw inspiration from the ideas of theorists such as Timothy Dow Adams, Roland Barthes, Gabriel Bauret, Philippe Dupois and Linda Haverty Rugg. We will also draw heavily upon the ideas and theories of Sigmund Freud to highlight the correspondences and the contradictions that exist between Calle’s project and Freud’s immense influence on modern thought — and surprisingly — on art.