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Sophie Calle, "North Pole / Pôle nord," 2009, 1 Duratrans light box, 3 sandblasted porcelain plaques, video, screen. © 2014 Sophie Calle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris. Courtesy of Sophie Calle and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York. Photo: Steven Probert.

Sophie Calle: North Pole

Artist: Sophie Calle
May 2, 2015 — August 9, 2015

Following her mother’s death, French conceptual artist Sophie Calle wanted to bury her portrait and jewels on a glacier in the North Pole, a place her mother had always dreamed of seeing. This multifaceted installation, consisting of video, photographs, and a light box, documents moments of Calle’s journey to fulfill her mother’s unrealized dream.

North Pole / Pôle nord also includes three porcelain plaques on which Calle has inscribed a storyabout her voyage. The following text is an excerpt:

“I waited to reach the northernmost point on the trip in order to go ashore and bury my mother’s jewels. L., my cabin-mate on the boat, suggested that if the weather was not permitting, I could still flush the ring down the toilet. The prospect would have made my mother laugh. But on Thursday October 2, 2008, the weather was fine. I ventured onto the glacier, chose a beautiful stone and buried the portrait, the necklace and the diamond.

Now my mother has gone to the Arctic North. Will climate change carry her out to sea as far as the Pole? Will she be dragged down the valley towards the ice cap? Will she stay on that shore, a marker of the Northern Glacier’s existence in the Holocene period?”

The creative process that drives North Pole is characteristic of Calle’s practice: she not only shares a story drawn from her own life, but uses that moment to inspire further artistic exploration. Following a set of self-established behavioral instructions, she transforms her daily life with a series of performative actions, usually executed as a combination of texts and photographs. The result is a poignant reconsideration of the parameters of public versus privatelife, through a body of work grounded in compelling, and often very intimate, personal investigation.


This exhibition is made possible in part by the Robert and Janet Miller Fund.