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Prenez soin de vous
September 27, 2007 5:44 AM   Subscribe

"I recieved and email telling me it was over. I didn't know how to answer." (pdf) The email closed with the phrase "Prenez soin de vous" ("take care of yourself"), so Sophie Calle went to 107 woman, chosen for their profession to analyze, translate, or reinterpret the email. The resulting collection of responses, and Calle's portraits of the women, filled the French pavillion at this year's Venice Biennale.

Although many reviews of the piece and analysis of the letter tend to focus on the medium of the breakup, Calle is insisting that she did not do this because she thought the email was impersonal (mp3). While the text of the email was printed out for everyone to take a copy of, there seems to be no posting of it online. The entire exhibition, including DVDs of the vdeo pieces, are compiled in a book.
posted by piratebowling (31 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Now that many of our relationships are half-lived on social networking sites, Sophie's obsession makes the point that you just can't text message breakup.
posted by litfit at 5:58 AM on September 27, 2007


Damn, I remember a girl saying to me "Take care of yourself" as she closed the door. Cruel phrase that tore me up as much as the breakup itself. "Take care of yourself because I'm done caring about you."

Prenez soin de vous. Is the formal command just tied into the expression or would it suggest an extra coldness?
posted by otio at 6:03 AM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


Prenez soin de vous. Is the formal command just tied into the expression or would it suggest an extra coldness?

Interesting you should ask. The email actually used the formal the entire time, which was pointed out by the English translator. Now, whether this was normal for their relationship or whether the guy chose to have a detached tone in the email is unknown. Considering how the editor tore apart this guys grammar and tense-switching, combined with his use of the formal in the email, I wouldn't be surprised if he wasn't a native French speaker.

Damn, time to make me woman 108 in Sophie's analysis army.
posted by piratebowling at 6:11 AM on September 27, 2007


I'd be very interested to read the letter and see the show for myself. You are making me count the miles between here and Venice. I may have to make do with the book.

Great post. I never would've seen this.
posted by chuckdarwin at 6:18 AM on September 27, 2007


...and she worked with Paul Auster.
posted by chuckdarwin at 6:34 AM on September 27, 2007


Very cool concept.

Damn, I remember a girl saying to me "Take care of yourself" as she closed the door.

One guy instructed me to "Have a good one!" as he hung up the phone. Now why didn't I think of turning that into an art exhibition?
posted by orange swan at 6:56 AM on September 27, 2007


---At first it was therapy; then art took over. "After one month I felt better. There was no suffering. It worked. The project had replaced the man." She feared he might seek a reconciliation, which would have ruined the whole thing.---

She reminds me of Amelie.

Thanks piratebowling, part of the enjoyment of this for me is not so much the facts of Sophie's life and art but rather, that a response to any given situation is restricted only by your own imagination.
posted by peacay at 7:05 AM on September 27, 2007


Sophie Calle went to 107 woman, chosen for their profession to analyze, translate, or reinterpret the email.

No matter how accomplished a woman is in the professional world, she still has nothing better to talk about than some boy.
posted by ND¢ at 7:23 AM on September 27, 2007 [5 favorites]


107 different ways to say "He's Just Not That Into You."
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 7:42 AM on September 27, 2007


This is really neat. I would love to read the whole text of the letter, but I realize that is for my own curiosity, not out of any artistic interest.
posted by arcticwoman at 7:55 AM on September 27, 2007


This is every broken-hearted person's dream come true.
posted by hermitosis at 7:59 AM on September 27, 2007


Neat project. I'm sure I've heard of Sophie Calle from somewhere, but none of the artworks listed in her wikipedia bio sound too familiar....

The real winner here, though, is that Tateshots podcast. It looks fantastic.
posted by painquale at 8:01 AM on September 27, 2007


No matter how accomplished a woman is in the professional world, she still has nothing better to talk about than some boy.

No matter how accomplished a woman is in the professional world, her behavior will be generalized to confirm gender biases.
posted by Tehanu at 8:08 AM on September 27, 2007 [5 favorites]


This is every broken-hearted person's dream come true.

Exactly. Exactly.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:25 AM on September 27, 2007


Brain freeze ... I was going to say "Hey, that sounds like Sophie Calle" ... duh.

I was lucky enough to see her M'as-tu vue show at the Pompidou in 2003. Very excellent.

The Blind was my favorite. She's definitely got that Oulipo thing going on, i.e. generative devices.

"At her gallery shows, Calle frequently supplies suggestion forms on which visitors are encouraged to furnish ideas for her art, while she sits beside them with a disinterested expression."

I wasn't that lucky.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:41 AM on September 27, 2007


shouldn't she have posted that to AskMe instead?
posted by DreamerFi at 9:20 AM on September 27, 2007


While the text of the email was printed out for everyone to take a copy of, there seems to be no posting of it online.

Well, let's remedy that. AIN'T NO PARTY LIKE TRANSCRIPTION PARTY 'CAUSE TRANSCRIPTION PARTY DON'T STOP:



Sophie,


Cela fait un moment que je veux vous écrire et répondre à votre dernier mail. En même temps, il me semblait préférable de vous parler et de dire ce que j'ai à vous dire de vive voix. Mais du moins cela sera-t-il écrit.
Comme vous l'avez vu, j'allais mal tous ces derniers temps. Comme si je ne me retrouvais plus dans ma propre existence. Une sorte d'angoisse terrible, contre laquelle je ne peux pas grand-chose, sinon aller de l'avant pour tenter de la prendre de vitesse, comme j'ai toujours fait. Lorsque nous nous sommes rencontrés, vous aviez posé une condition: ne pas devenir la "quatrième". J'ai tenu cet engagement: cela fait des mois que j'ai cessé de voir les "autres", ne trouvant évidemment aucun moyen de les voir sans faire de vous l'une d'elles.
Je croyais que cela suffirait, je croyais que vous aimer et que votre amour suffiraient pour que l'angoisse qui me pousse toujours à aller voir ailleurs et m'empêche à jamais d'être tranquille et sans doute simplement heureux et "généreux" se calmerait à votre contact et dans la certitude que l'amour que vous me portez était le plus bénéfique pour moi, le plus bénéfique que j'ai jamais connu, vous le savez. J'ai cru que l'écriture serait un remède, mon "intranquillité" s'y dissolvant pour vous retrouver. Mais non. C'est même devenu encore pire, je ne peux même pas vous dire dans quel état je me sens en moi même. Alors, cette semaine, j'ai commencé à rappeler les "autres". Et je sais ce que cela veut dire pour moi et dans quel cycle cela va m'entraîner.
Je ne vous ai jamais menti et ce n'est pas aujourd'hui que je vais commencer.
Il y avait une autre règle que vous aviez posée au début de notre histoire : le jour où nous cesserions d'être amants, me voir ne serait plus envisageable pour vous. Vous savez comme cette contrainte ne peut que me paraître désastreuse, injuste (alors que vous voyez toujours B., R.,...) et compréhensible (évidemment...) ; ainsi je ne pourrais jamais devenir votre ami.
Mais aujourd'hui, vous pouvez mesurer l'importance de ma décision au fait que je sois prêt à me plier à votre volonté, alors que ne plus vous voir ni vous parler ni saisir votre regard sur les choses et les êtres et votre douceur sur moi me manqueront infiniment.
Quoi qu'il arrive, sachez que je ne cesserai de vous aimer de cette manière qui fut la mienne dès que je vous ai connue et qui se prolongera en moi et, je le sais, ne mourra pas.
Mais aujourd'hui, ce serait la pire des mascarades que de maintenir une situation que vous savez aussi bien que moi devenue irrémédiable au regard même de cet amour que je vous porte et de celui que vous me portez et qui m'oblige encore à cette franchise envers vous, comme dernier gage de ce qui fut entre nous et restera unique.
J'aurais aimé que les choses tournent autrement.
Prenez soin de vous.

X
posted by Greg Nog at 9:23 AM on September 27, 2007


Greg... I think your keyboard is broken... Or, please learn to spell. I can't understand the words on the screen.
posted by Debaser626 at 10:17 AM on September 27, 2007


in all fairness, he did say he was a stranger, but I think something was lost in the translation.
posted by ryanfou at 10:25 AM on September 27, 2007


A bad translation of the French above, courtesy of Google:

That makes one moment that I want to write to you and answer your last email. At the same time, it seemed preferable to to me to speak and say to you what I have to say to you of sharp voice. But at least that it will be written.
As you saw, I was badly all lately. As if I did not find myself any more in my own existence. A kind of anguish terrible, against which I cannot large-thing, if not outward journey of before trying to take it speed, as I always made. When we met, you had laid down a condition: not to become the “fourth”. I kept to this commitment: that made of the months that I ceased seeing the “others”, obviously not being able any to see them without doing to you one of them.
I believed that that would be enough, I believed that you to like and that your love would be enough so that the anguish which always pushes me with going to see elsewhere and me prevents forever from being quiet and undoubtedly simply happy and “generous” would calm itself with your contact and in the certainty which the love that you carry to me was most beneficial for me, most beneficial that I ever knew, you know it. I believed that the writing would be a remedy, my “intranquillity” dissolving there to find you. But not. It even became still worse, I cannot even say to you in which state I even smell myself in me. Then, this week, I started to point out the “others”. And I know what that wants to say for me and in which cycle that will involve me.
I never lied you and it is not today that I will start.
There was another rule which you had posed at the beginning of our history: the day when we would cease being lovers, to see me would not be possible any more for you. You know as this constraint can to only appear disastrous me, unjust (whereas you always see B., R.,…) and comprehensible (obviously…) ; thus I could never become your friend.
But today, you can measure the importance of my decision to the fact that I would be ready to fold me with your will, whereas more to see you neither speaking to you nor to seize your glance on the things and the beings and your softness on me miss themselves infinitely.
No matter what it arrives, will know that I will not cease loving you this manner which was mine as soon as I knew you and who will be prolonged in me and, I know, will not die it.
But today, they would be worst masquerades than to maintain a situation than you know as well as me become irremediable in comparison even with this love that I carry you and of that that you carry me and who still obliges me with this frankness towards you, as last pledge of what was between us and will remain single.
I would have liked that the things turn differently.
Take care of you.

posted by mrbill at 10:58 AM on September 27, 2007


Tehanu writes "No matter how accomplished a woman is in the professional world, her behavior will be generalized to confirm gender biases."

Accomplishment doesn't necessarily cause forcing a behavior into a gender bias. That's a bias itself, looking at anything that may be constructed as gender bias from some particular angle.

For istance, the fact that the composition of some parliament is such that relative few woman are in it doesn't prove bias, even if it still could be caused primarily by bias.
posted by elpapacito at 11:30 AM on September 27, 2007


you just can't text message breakup.you just can't text message breakup.


Tell that to Jose Mourinho.
posted by wfc123 at 11:30 AM on September 27, 2007


Metafilter: A kind of anguish terrible, against which I cannot large-thing
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:53 AM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


Man, I love me some Calle. I really liked the piece where she followed a man around, I also liked the one where she was followed herself.

Oh, and Blind is absolutely fantastic. She's one of the few folks who I really like conceptually and visually.

Between this and the Errol Morris essay, it's been a fantastic day on Metafilter.
posted by klangklangston at 12:01 PM on September 27, 2007


Greg, you ROCK.
posted by piratebowling at 12:13 PM on September 27, 2007


Accomplishment doesn't necessarily cause forcing a behavior into a gender bias.

I said "no matter how accomplished," meaning the generalization is made in spite of accomplishments, not because of them.
posted by Tehanu at 1:26 PM on September 27, 2007


So, a question for all of you reading: do you think this would make a good present for a person whose boyfriend has recently been a dick in a breakup...or a terrible present?
posted by crinklebat at 3:57 PM on September 27, 2007


The less he likes irony, the better the present.
posted by klangklangston at 4:38 PM on September 27, 2007


This reminds me tangentially of the beyond-wonderful art project, The Dumpster.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:58 PM on September 27, 2007


MeTa
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:27 PM on September 27, 2007


You've gotta admire the stylishness, flair & artistic sensibilities of the French.

Anywhere else, she would have just posted the breakup email on her MySpace & had all her friends write "ZOMG! Loser! LOL!!!1!!1!!".
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:42 PM on September 27, 2007


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