For Sophie Calle’s first solo exhibition in China, the artist has covered an entire wall with images from her Cash Machine project. The piece first originated in 1988 and was extended 15 years later with the 30 minute film Unfinished. Calle used the video camera recordings of an American bank, which depicted clients going about their business, first as a series of stills and then as material to interview bank workers.
The images first and foremost provided Calle with a series of surreptitious glimpses into the everyday experience of withdrawing or depositing money, that to her resembled the act of entering a confession booth. Moving on from working with cash dispensing machines, for Unfinished the artist interrogated bank workers about their interactions with money and interviewed customers at the machines about what goes through their minds while the transactions are in progress.
Calle gradually unravelled an unsettling portrait of our taboo-tinged relationship to money, how commerce is conducted and how value is assessed in modern day urban society. Two other works, produced for this exhibition, are poignant further investigations into the often unacknowledged grip that the idea of money exerts on human motivation and behaviour: Suicide and Secret.
First, Calle explores the difference between those that “drown themselves for love and those who drown themselves for money”; and secondly, Calle uses safes installed in the home of a couple to test how lovers can live with the other’s secret close at hand but out of reach.
Also on display in this exhibition is the series Voir la mer, which shows nostalgic portraits shot during a trip to Istanbul in 2010: 15 residents who had never seen the sea have their astonished reactions captured on film as they partook in the inaugural, life-changing experience of visiting the sea. The film piece captures and relates silently, with only the sound of the sea, the most touching details of an ineffable, seminal experience to someone else.
Sophie Calle, until 10 January, Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong. For more information visit www.perrotin.com
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1. Sophie Calle, Take Care of Yourself. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Perrotin.