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Arts & Culture

Missing by Sophie Calle at the San Francisco waterfront this summer

Sophie Calle, Voir la mer (detail), 2011 - Courtesy Sophie Calle/Adagp, Paris, 2017, Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, Fraenkel Gallery, and Galerie Perrotin

Through Aug. 20, French conceptual artist Sophie Calle brings her installation Missing to San Francisco. This exhibition, presented by the Fort Mason Center for the Arts & Culture (FMCAC), will be her most extensive to date in the United States.

Missing follows the themes running through Calle’s career, erasing the lines between art and experience, past and present, artist and viewer. Calle’s narrative style invites participants to an informal space to tell stories in a manner that creates a shared experience with participants.

In a sense, Missing is a retrospective. Five of Calle’s major projects are merged into a site-responsive presentation on the scenic FMCAC campus located on the San Francisco waterfront. Emphasizing the analogy of mother and sea, Missing reflects on the universal experience of loss, disappearance, and absence. Rachel Monique (2007), installed in the former U.S. Army Chapel, is an intimate multimedia exploration of the personality and final moments of Sophie Calle’s mother. True Stories (1988), located in the historic General’s Residence, is a presentation of the artist’s personal belongings combined with autobiographical anecdotes as to their meaning. Take Care of Yourself (2007), located in Gallery 308 and originally created for the French Pavilion of the 2007 Venice Biennale, documents 107 women interpreting a break-up letter the artist received from a former lover. Located in the Firehouse with dazzling views of the San Francisco Bay, Voir la mer (2011) is a film installation in which residents of Istanbul view the ocean for the first time. The Last Image (2010), also located in the Firehouse, is a collection of photographs and text depicting the last visual memory of blind people.

Related events include a conversation with Calle at FMCAC and a screening of film and video works at UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, which includes a conversation with the artist. Calle will also have a book signing at City Lights, and a film anthology at the Roxie Theater.

Missing and its related programming brings Calle back to where her art career began — in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her career started in the Bolinas cemetery in the late 1970s where she photographed the words “Mother” and “Father” engraved on various headstones. Curator Evelyne Jouanno adds: “Calle’s work continues to be extremely impactful. Especially today, when in the midst of rapid change and global crisis, our search for meaning and permanence has never been so obvious.” Calle’s installations and performances merge to form a single creative statement connected by the anecdotes, which together present an artist’s life, and through her stories we recognize our own.

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Sharon Anderson is an artist and writer in Southern California. She can be reached through mindtheimage.com.

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