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Sophie Calle and Sophy Rickett

Here I continue to explore the concept of ‘relay’ between a photograph and text. I consider two pieces of work Sophie Calle’s ‘take care of yourself’ and Sophy Rickett’s ‘objects in the field’, reflecting on their postmodern approaches to narrative.

The spark for Calle’s work was a ‘dear jane’ letter she received, putting an end her relationship with a boyfriend. She describes the story in the Guardian’s podcast. Her work was to ask 107 women, with different professional perspectives, to respond to the letter. The responses are multimedia and include photographs, video, music and even a cross-word. It is a multiple relay, with each visual referencing the same letter. Tate shots gives a good indication of how the work must have appeared in exhibition. It seems a somewhat chaotic jumble of media – the sight and sound of 107 responses all received simultaneously – extreme relay. It is very difficult to respond to such a piece of work without viewing it first hand as it doesn’t lend itself to the small screen. A question asked of Calle was whether the purpose of the work was to shame her ex-partner, which she dismisses as not the case. There is a jumbled, post-modern narrative in the work – over one hundred characters responding in their own ways to a single protagonist’s dear Jane letter. There is no single media or tangible piece of work we can view or hold, it is more of an experience that needs to be attended. There is no single narrative, but multiple stories provided by everyone who contributes to the work. There is a strong sense of co-authorship; the artist’s work is the work of others.

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 21.12.56
Source: photographersgallery.org

Similarly to Calle, Sophie Rickett’s work is derived from the work of another person; in this case an astronomer who took photos of the sky using a telescope for research purposes. The Photographer’s Gallery blog explains the work and reproduces the text that accompanied the pictures. The text is not centred on the story of the making of the images themselves, but a montage of Rickett’s memories and associations as she completed the work, starting with her childhood recollection of an eye test (connection to telescopic optics). The relay between the images and the text works through the associations made by the artist. I feel that the text helps me to experience the pictures as the artist has experienced the work, derived from images captured by someone else.

Looking at this work is helping me to expand my appreciation of what art can be; though I am not yet completely sold on this approach to art and need more stretching to move beyond the tradition of an artist creating unique work with her own abilities. Perhaps I am of the generation that has grown up in the post-modern era and feel nostalgia for what seemed like simpler, more certain ways of living and culture, when it was not easily possible to steal music.


The Guardian [online]. Podcast interview with Sophie Calle on Take Care of Yourself. Available from: http://audio.theguardian.tv/sys-audio/Arts/Culture/2007/06/15/sophiecalleintfinal.mp3 [accessed 18.12.15]

Photoparley [blog] (12.2013). Sophie Rickett. Available from: https://photoparley.wordpress.com/category/sophy-rickett/ [accessed 18.12.15]

Dr Glaggs M (nd) [online]. Postmodermism. Available from: http://www.bdavetian.com/Postmodernism.html [accessed 26.12.15]

TateShots [on Youtube]. Sophie Calle – Take Care of Yourself. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/embed/Q9E4dA0EGaM [accessed 18.12.15]

The Photographers Gallery (2014) [online]. Sophy Rickett – Objects in the Field.  Available from: http://thephotographersgalleryblog.org.uk/2014/03/19/sophy-rickett-objects-in-the-field/ [accessed 18.12.15]

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