“A remarkably poignant and tender portrait of a man she would never meet.“
—Mary Kaye Schilling
“I found an address book on the Rue des Martyrs. I decided to photocopy the contents before sending it back anonymously to its owner, whose address is inscribed on the endpaper. I will contact the people whose names are noted down. I will tell them, “I found an address book on the street by chance. Your number was in it. I’d like to meet you.” I’ll ask them to tell me about the owner of the address book, whose name I’ll only reveal in person, if they agree to meet me. Thus, I will get to know this man through his friends and acquaintances. I will try to discover who he is without ever meeting him, and I will try to produce a portrait of him over an undetermined length of time that will depend on the willingness of his friends to talk about him—and on the turns taken by the events. This project will be published daily in Libération. I have to turn my texts in three days before each publication. The man’s name is Pierre D.“
Sophie Calle, “Libération”, Tuesday, August 2, 1983
Originally published as a serial in the newspaper, “Libération,” over the course of one month, Calle’s incisive written accounts with friends, family, and colleagues, juxtaposed with photographs, yield vivid subjective impressions of the address book’s owner, Pierre D., while also suggesting ever more complicated stories as information is parsed and withheld by the people she encounters. Collaged through a multitude of details–from the banal to the luminous, this fragile and strangely intimate portrait of Pierre D. is a prism through which to see the desire for, and the elusiveness of, knowledge. Upon learning of this work and its publication in the newspaper, Pierre D. expressed his anger, and Calle agreed not to republish the work until after his death, which he accepted, and thus, only in 2009 did Calle create the work that is currently on exhibition.
The project presented consists of images of each episode as it was laid out in the newspaper, but now absent of all surrounding context. The stories are isolated except by three additional objects. Exhibited to one side of the narratives is a sculptural, five-color lithograph with book cloth that references the physical object of the address book. On the other side are a blind-embossed (the numbers are visible but un-inked) list of all the interviewee’s addresses and a crisply etched, textual portrait summarizing the collective portrait of Pierre D. as described by the interviewees/entries in the address book. The exhibited project is a poetic collection both visually and textually, documenting a process of discovery that drifts between anonymity, transparency, presence, and dislocation.