“I Lost myself in Venice and Turned it into a Piece of Art”: Recycling Loose Moments of Life (Sophie Calle, “Suite Vénitienne” – “Please follow me”)

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Venice is a well-known literary topic, an inspiration for many writers and artists. But the figure of the maze, where one loses himself, can become the poetic experience itself and lead to an aesthetic metamorphosis of a pointless adventure.

This paper will consider the direct and physical experience of the city in art. What happens there? As a matter of fact, basically nothing. The vacuity of wandering leads to nothing except for the narrative that comes up afterwards to build a story, sometimes uplifting it to a real individual myth. The Situationists (Venise a vaincu Ralph Rumney, 1957) and Sophie Calle (Suite Vénitienne, 1979) tend to use the city as a field of experimentation, and produce a report of what everyday life is made of in the Doge city. But the possibility of a Romanesque intrigue remains at every corner of the tortuous “calli veneziani”: it seems then that the city could be a remedy to “l’ennui”, a French word that expresses the idea of a melancholic pain.

If the starting point of Suite Vénitienne is well-known (Sophie Calle shadows a man from Paris to Venice), the reader might forget that for the second half of her stay, as she has been spotted by the man she can not pursue him anymore. She then goes on wandering in the city. Theorized as the “dérive” by the Situationists, the activity of drifting in the streets is a preliminary statement for an aesthetic transformation of loose moments of life.

We will consider the activity of drifting as an aesthetic pre-condition giving a form to the lost moments of life. Ralph Rumney and Sophie Calle bring some clues of the paradoxical relationship they have with Venice, boredom and creation.

Keywords: Venice, Sophie Calle, Situationists, Boredom, Experimentation, City
Stream: Literary Arts Practices
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Dr. Magali Nachtergael

Postdoctoral Fellow, German and Romance Languages and Literatures, Johns Hopkins University
Baltimore, Maryland, USA

A former lecturer in History of Contemporary Art at the Université Bordeaux 3, Magali Nachtergael is currently a postdoctoral fellow at The Johns Hopkins University’s German and Romance Languages and Literatures Department. She has completed her PhD in History and Semiology of Text and Image received with highest honors in June 2008 at the Université Paris 7 – Diderot. Her dissertation unveils and studies the 20th-Century emerging notion of "Individual Mythologies", a form of self-narrative that includes visual representations of personal history in artworks and autobiographical texts illustrated with photographs. She has published papers on André Breton, Sophie Calle, Roland Barthes and Kathy Acker, and as an active art critic, she regularly publishes essays or reviews in French contemporary art magazines such as "Artpress" or "Art 21".

Ref: A09P0523