Thursday, January 12, 2012

When Last I Died, An Interview with Sophie Calle

Let me be clear; it is she--Sophie Calle--who asks these questions.  I simply answer, as truthfully as I can. (I'm sorry if you don't believe me. You should.)

--When did you last die? 
--Late last night, three hours before the moon set. And then I woke again.

--What gets you out of bed in the morning?
--In this season? The thought of getting back into it at night. And sometimes the promise of a hot eucalyptus scented bath. Coffee keeps me up, as does the endless list of tasks life has handed me.  I cross one off, and it adds three. Or five, or ten. This is why I have to die every night; it is a way of resetting the clock.  But, alas, the list survives.

--What became of your childhood dreams? 
--They were all nightmares from which I am glad to have awakened.

--What sets you apart from everyone else? 
-- Nothing. I wear others' castoffs, and can hardly remember the last new pair of shoes.  In any case, I will surely fit into another pair someone else has tossed aside.

--What is missing from your life? 
--Nothing and then everything and then nothing again, so that I tumble into a quandry without top or bottom.

--Do you think that everyone can be an artist? 
 --Of course. Everyone but myself, naturally.  Which is why I must make such an effort to insist that I too might someday think of myself this way.  Just not yet.

--Where do you come from? 
--I grew up in a flat place south of this one, a thousand miles from the sea. The lights of the city blocked out the stars, and I thought that the endless roar of the traffic was the sound of the void.  
I was, perhaps, right about that.

--Do you find your lot an enviable one? 
--I have no truck with envy, though desire is everything.  Can you desire a lot? Yes, I do.

--What have you given up?
--Lent. Small purchases. And often, hope.

 --What do you do with your money? 
--I put it into a household account and there it disappears. I am not sad about this; what else should I do with my money? 

--What household task gives you the most trouble?
--I loathe vacuuming, spot removal, scrubbing the bathtub and fixing other people's computers.  And correcting grammar mistakes.  Yet I seem to be an expert in all of these things.

--What are your favourite pleasures? 
--You really think I'm going to tell you? Okay, I relent. One is....dancing. Nothing makes me happier. I wish I had been a choreographer. Or had known Pina Bausch.

--What would you like to receive for your birthday? 
--A complete set of poetry by CD Wright. And a really sturdy tripod. And perhaps a new pair of shoes all my own. Or a swimming pool; the sea is really too cold for sport these days.

--Cite three living artists whom you detest. 
--Artists? I can't think of one.  But politicians, managers, corporate kleptocrats? May an infinity of evil befall the lot of them, they who are the evil that shatters us. You want me to name them? Ayy, where do I begin? Just pick up the newspaper and check off the names on the front page.

--What do you stick up for? 
--Virtually everyone else.

--What are you capable of refusing? 
-- Butter. Sugar. Cream. A ride. I wish I were capable of refusing stupidity, but sometimes I tumble into it and cannot get out.

--What is the most fragile part of your body? 
--My feet. Or perhaps my breath. This is why I didn't become a dancer, although I still long for such precise athleticism. Words rarely fail me, but my body lumbers; it is less reliable than it used to be.

--What has love made you capable of doing? 
--Love has made me capable of hatred. Of rage, of going to battle.  Strange perhaps, because the opposite is not true--rage and hatred don't make you capable of love.

--What do other people reproach you for? 
--Unfinished projects. Belatedness. Abstraction. Absence.  Falling down when I should be standing up. Loving the wrong things. And they are right.  I reproach myself for these failings too, among many others.

--What does art do for you? 
--It is sometimes the only door to hope. Without it, I don't think much of human beings.

--Write your epitaph. 
--Wait, that's not a question. I would prefer not to. Not yet, though as I've said, I do sometimes die every night. See? Another unfinished project. A belated requiem.  Let us sing.

--In what form would you like to return?
--As a winged thing, fleet of foot; nimble, pirouetting, light of heart, ripe and tender like a peach in July.

The questions are French artist Sophie Calle's and have been taken from from “Sophie Calle: Interview.”  Frieze Magazine. 

Photo: Hotel bed, Philadelphia, PA. April 2011.


  1. Oh wow. This touched me and made me happy.