Reviewed by Sarah Williams
Since I grew up with Facebook, I’m unsure of where people directed their impulse for casual stalking before the advent of the internet. Did the information age create the media consumer, the one who needs to know everything about others? With this book in hand, I say social media only made an itch easier to scratch.
Finding an address book in the street and before returning it to its owner, Calle photocopied all the pages and then made meticulous attempts to meet each person listed to investigate the owner. Beyond the modern and wholly casual digital investigations, she pieced together a picture of Pierre D. In the years preceding, Vito Acconci followed strangers around New York City, Chris Burden had a friend shoot him in the arm, and Yoko Ono let people cut her clothes off in public institutions, but Calle with her uncomfortably transgressive investigations has a certain unhinged quality that rattles me more than any of the others. You get anxious as a reader as it gets a little too intimate, feeding an impulse that is maybe better off starved.
As Conceptual art of the period dictated, she starts off with a relatively objective framework that leads the work: to interview everyone in this address book to find out about its owner. As she speaks to his business associates and friends, you take on the project along with Calle, constructing the narrative of Pierre D. But whether it is because there are so many people involved, or because you glimpse at her wanting to get too close to the subject—voicing an urge to head to his vacation destination, or go inside his apartment, you see the potential within her to break the construct of the project, for this to go totally off the rails and that tension is perhaps the best part.
It’s not all sociopathic stalker fuel, though. The conversations begin to show themselves as meditations on perception. Focusing on the same subject, the people Calle spoke to would describe some qualities repeatedly, while others directly contradict. You would see how insightful some people who claimed to have not known him well could be, while better known friends duly recite a few superficial particulars. And fair enough, maybe his real friends didn’t want to say too much to this crazy person asking to meet everyone in a found address book.
Going to buy this book? Support the Art Book Review by purchasing here.
Sophie Calle., The Address Book, (Siglio Press, 2012 )
Images: interior from The Address Book courtesy of Siglio Press.