A forensic conceptualist's inventory of the ordinary and extraordinary lives in a Venetian hotel
n 1981 Sophie Calle took a job as a chambermaid for the Hotel C in Venice, Italy. Stashing her camera and tape recorder in her mop bucket, she not only cleans and tidies, but sorts through the evidence of the hotel guests' lives. Assigned 12 rooms on the fourth floor, she surveys the state of the guests' bedding, their books, newspapers and postcards, perfumes and cologne, traveling clothes and costumes for Carnival. She methodically photographs the contents of closets and suitcases, examining the detritus in the rubbish bin and the toiletries arranged on the washbasin. She discovers their birth dates and blood types, diary entries, letters from and photographs of lovers and family. She eavesdrops on arguments and love-making. She retrieves a pair of shoes from the wastebasket and takes two chocolates from a neglected box of sweets, while leaving behind stashes of money, pills and jewelry. Her thievery is the eye of the camera, observing the details that were not meant for her, or us, to see.
The Hotel now manifests as a book for the first time in English (it was previously included in the book Double Game). Collaborating with the artist on a new design that features enhanced and larger photographs, and pays specific attention to the beauty of the book as an object, Siglio is releasing its third book authored by Calle, after The Address Book (2012) and Suite Vénitienne (2015).
Sophie Calle (born 1953) is an internationally renowned artist whose controversial works often fuse conceptual art and Oulipo-like constraints, investigatory methods and the plundering of autobiography. The Whitechapel Gallery in London organized a retrospective in 2009, and her work has been shown at the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Hayward Gallery and Serpentine, London; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, among others. She lives and works in Paris.