The Hotel. Room 43 / March 5
- Artist: Sophie Calle
- Creation date: 1981
- Object type: Photograph
The Hotel is one of the earliest works where Sophie Calle systematically intrudes into and documents the private lives of other people. This strategy is rooted in her own past: In her youth, Calle left her native city of Paris in order to travel around the world. When she returned seven years later, in 1979, she felt alienated in her own city. The result was that she developed methods for coming into close contact with strangers and documenting their lives in photographs and texts.
In 1981 she worked for three weeks as a chambermaid at the Hotel C. Man in Venice. Before cleaning the rooms, she documented in detail how the guests had left them. She was interested in anything that could afford a glimpse into their personality. Were their shoes placed in an orderly or haphazard fashion? Was their toothbrush new or worn out? If the visible material failed to provide enough data, she would search for more information by opening closets, drawers, and suitcases and reading through diaries and letters.
Calle’s hotel series is conceptually founded on a strict set of rules and the relationship between text and photo. The individual pieces are bipartite: a colour photo, accompanied by a text, shows the freshly made hotel bed, while the guests’ stay at the hotel is recorded in a multipart picture composed of up till nine black-and-white photos. Each work is presented with room number and date. The texts are pragmatic and full of detail, and the photographs are similarly low-key, offering overviews of the room as well as close-ups of the guests’ private belongings. Sophie Calle lays this private sphere bare and exposes it to public view.