Monday, 23 November 2009

dark afternoon (Sophie Calle at the Whitechapel)

Lit trees above the skating rink, Natural History Museum, South Kensington
The challenge is to get through to the winter solstice without succumbing to depression.
To Whitechapel Art Gallery for ARLIS UK & Ireland (Art Libraries Society) 40th Anniversary Members' Day. Director Iwona Blazwick spoke with respect of the old public library, once alongside the gallery and a venerable meeting-place for artists, activists and local citizens, but long since transmogrified (by the borough, not the Gallery) into an 'Ideas Store' elsewhere. The old large reading room (unrecognisable) is now available for events such as ours, but it also contains a few ideas of its own, orchestrated currently by artist Goshka Macuga. Remembering that Picasso's 'Guernica' was exhibited at the Whitechapel in 1939, Macuga has (amazingly!) borrowed the life-size tapestry version of the painting that was commissioned by Nelson Rockefeller and now normally hangs at the UN in New York, outside the Security Council, lest they forget. The same work that was covered by a blue curtain when Colin Powell stood in front of it to make the case for war on Iraq in early 2003. Together with a few other things including a film of young Vietnam veterans testifying regretfully to what they had got up to.

Sophie Calle, Prenez soin de vous / Take Care of Yourself, The Proofreader; taken from
A large Sophie Calle exhibition fills 3 of the galleries, including the work I saw in Venice, 2007. I like it better here, in (I think??) a slightly less lofty space. The huge collaborative project, 'Prenez soin de vous ' (now largely turned into into English), in which Calle engaged over 100 women from various 'interpretative' professions to respond in multifarious ways to the 'break-up' email from her ex-partner, is lush, colourful, funny, rueful, really entertaining, acerbic and ultimately a rich celebration of scores of fabulous, talented, characterful women. It's also a fascinating display of 'readings', of one kind and another. It can even be seen as a sort of expansion of Raymond Queneau's notion in his Exercises du Style, where the same little narrative is rendered in many different versions.

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