Sunday, August 21, 2016

Deconstructing 'self ' - Sophie Calle and the art of celebrating birthdays

Sophie Calle, The Birthday Ceremony, 1986, showcase containing various personal objects, 
Following a workshop exercise last week in school in which we were required to place a miscellany of four small things in an anonymous brown paper bag to represent our 'selves' to the others in the group who had to guess to whom they belonged, it struck me just how contingent on changing situations and contexts our perceived identity is in any given time and place, not a fixed or permanent essence that can be easily pinned down or reduced to one or another thing.  

How much it is individually and socially negotiated; constructed out of expectations projected by others onto the roles we are given to play as much as our own preconceptions and the qualities we bring to bear at the significant moments we are called on or feel the need to define 'ourselves'.    

Clearly we experience physical, emotional and mental changes internally and externally in the life cycle of our own bodies and the environment as they grow and age - nothing stays the same for long. We inherit so much from the actions and intentions of others before we were born and nature and nurture shape us long before we take ownership consciously of our own conditioning actions. 

All of this reminded me of Sophie Calle's 'The Birthday Ceremony' collections of gifted objects showcased in glass cabinets or her 'L'Hotel' series in which she assumes the role of a voyeuristic hotel maid who constructs the identities of the temporary occupants of the rooms she is cleaning, like a detective, from the physical evidence they leave behind. Concept, performance, installation, photography and text all play significant roles in the way she curates and presents the relationships between the public and private domains of the viewer and the viewed, framing the way we see and perceive the artificial 'realities' she constructs.  

Hotel room 47, 1981, Sophie Calle

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