Questionnaire: Sophie Calle

What do you wish you knew? At this moment, I wish I knew how to answer your questionnaire

Sophie Calle's studio, 2009

Sophie Calle's studio, 2009

What images keep you company in the space where you work?

In my studio there is a stuffed giraffe that I bought when my mother died, to replace her. Her name is Monique too, and she looks at me from on high with sadness and irony, just like my mother did. So in a way it is the image of my mother that keeps me company.

What was the first piece of art that mattered to you?

Why is it so easy to talk about my mother’s death and go absolutely blank when asked about a work of art that matters, or its title? I guess because I never ask myself that kind of question.

What could you imagine doing if you didn’t do what you do? What should change? What music are you listening to? What are you reading? What is art for?

I should have been a secret agent: if I were secret enough no one would ask me what music I listen to, what books I read, or what art is for.

I don’t like to answer questions. At the opening of the show, ‘Dislocations’, at New York’s MoMA in 1991, I was introduced for the first time to Louise Bourgeois. She told me, drily: ‘If you have any questions for me, ask my son.’ Out of irritation, I said: ‘I don’t have anything to ask you’. To which she replied: ‘Aren’t you the one who asks questions?’ Indeed.

So here’s a questionnaire for you. When did you last die? What gets you out of bed in the morning? What became of your childhood dreams? What sets you apart from everyone else? What is missing from your life? Do you think that everyone can be an artist? Where do you come from? Do you find your lot an enviable one? What have you given up? What do you do with your money? What household task gives you the most trouble? What are your favourite pleasures? What would you like to receive for your birthday? Cite three living artists whom you detest. What do you stick up for? What are you capable of refusing? What is the most fragile part of your body? What has love made you capable of doing? What do other people reproach you for? What does art do for you? Write your epitaph. In what form would you like to return?

I don’t think my mother would have chosen to return as a stuffed giraffe in the studio of her daughter, but she is dead.

Sophie Calle is an artist who lives in Paris, France. She currently has solo shows at Paula Cooper Gallery, New York, USA, and at the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium, and has forthcoming exhibitions at Videobrasil, SESC Pompeia, São Paulo, Brazil; Museum of Modern Art of Bahia, Salvador, Brazil; Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK; and De Pont Museum of Contemporary Art, Tilburg, The Netherlands.

Issue 124

First published in Issue 124

Jun - Aug 2009

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