Sophie Calle received an email from a lover essentially breaking off their relationship, ending with the words ‘take care of yourself’
She used this message as the core of a work of art that she created as a response to the receipt of the message. She passed on the email to over a hundred other women in a wide range of fields and then recorded their response to it. The first showing of ‘take care of yourself’ was at the Venice Biennale in 2007 where it was critically acclaimed.
It seems to me that the narrative of this work was in the vast array of reactions to the letter (including song, dance and a forensic study) and it is a feminine response to a rejection. It is far more than just photographs but a multi media response.
Sophy Rickett worked for a period as an artist associated with the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge University. There she built a relationship with the scientist Dr Roderick Willstrop. He had designed a telescope in the 1980s and had a large number of photographic images either on negative or digitally from his research of the skies. Rickett took these images and reprocessed them putting her artistic slant on to Willstrop’s scientific photographs. Her Gallery describe how “Rickett is interested in the process of de-accessioning and the advancement of obsolescence. She uses the project to explore ideas around how meaning and interpretation can be fluid and contestable. The project tests the border between collaboration and appropriation, and explores ways of blurring the boundaries between them.”
Again this work of art does not consist solely of photographs, it includes a video and a 2000 word essay composed by the artist to consider the various aspects she confronted as part of the project.
There are the text of interviews with Sophy Rickett on Photoparley as well as on Thinking in Practice. The text of the essay is also included at The Photographers’ Gallery. There is also a review of the exhibition in London Art Reviews.
I found researching these two artists fascinating, both have appropriated something else (a message or astronomical photos) and turned them in to a work of art. Both used different media in their work and both have strong messages that are difficult to convey in other ways. Both works convey messages of emotion and concern. I particularly like the way that Rickett’s work takes existing scientific images and manipulates them to produce artistic results.
What did I learn from the exercise?
For me there were two big learning points from this research.
Firstly the original concept was stimulating, especially in Calle’s case where a message from her boyfriend breaking off their relationship spawned a work of art. In Rickett’s case it was the concept of taking the scientific photos and converting them into an art form. The big learning point is that it is not just the end result that counts, but the intention behind the work and how it was achieved.
Secondly, how both artists used photographs as part of a multi-media approach to the subject. Done well this can be very successful and enhance the images