Traces

"To shadow another is to give him, in fact, a double life, a parallel existence. Any commonplace existence can be transfigured (without one's knowledge), any exceptional existence can be made commonplace. It is this effect of doubling that makes the object surreal in its banality and weaves around it the strange (eventually dangerous?) web of seduction."

(Jean Baudrillard, Please follow me 79)

"I smile at him. I am relieved that he doesn't say, 'If I were you . . . ' or 'You should have. . . .' I like the awkward way he's hiding his surprise, his desire to be master of the situation. As if, in fact, I had been the unconscious victim of his game, his itineraries, his schedules. . . .

(Sophie Calle, Suite vénitienne 50)

Webs--Debris--Refuse (See Benjamin as the rag picker of history)

Suite vénitienne / Please follow me is a collaborative project created by Sophie Calle and Jean Baudrillard which is primarily concerned with the concept of tracing. The text is comprised of the juxtaposition of two very different works: an annotated photographic investigation and a scholarly analysis of that investigation. Together, the two texts both articulate and perform a seduction that leads readers into an awareness of their own similar investigations and analyses of the texts at hand.

In Suite vénitienne Sophie Calle combines sparse time-centered narratives with traced maps and photographs collected while following "Henri B."--one of many strangers who she was compelled to follow and photograph in Paris in late January 1980 but who was lost all too quickly in a crowd. Later that same evening she is coincidentally introduced to "Henri B." at an art opening and discovers through the course of a brief conversation that he is planning a trip to Venice. She decides to take her game of people following to a new level, embarking upon a journey to the labyrinthine city of Venice where she searches out, locates, and trails the near-stranger for a total of fourteen days. Throughout the course of her investigation, she learns of his whereabouts, his plans, and his reasons for visiting from others. She photographs him, photographs what he photographs, and maps out their journey together through the city from the perspective of his shadow in cognito, persisting in her experiment even after he becomes privy to her lurking presence and confronts her with his gaze.

What her experiment produces is a small collection of black and white photographs and a narrative that resembles an itinerary. Following is a brief example:

Thursday, February 14, 1980.

Noon. Lunch with Anna Lisa G. and Luciana C., Venetians a mutual friend suggested I contact. I confide in them the purpose of my trip. Thery're willing to help and place their telephone at my disposal.

3:00 P.M. I leave them. I put on the wig; from now on I won't go out without wearing it. I continue my search for Henri B. on the streets. I wonder if he's rich. I go into the luxury hotels: "Do you have a guest named Henri B.?" he's rich. At the Savoïa, the Cavaletto, the Londra, the Danieli, the San Marco, the answer is no.

I know so little about him, except that he had rain and fog the first days, that he now has sun, that he is never where I search. He is consuming me.

Four hours pass. I give up.

8:00 P.M. Dinner with Luciana C. at the restaurant Le Miliòn. For practice, while aiming at my friend, I photographed three men on my right with the Squintar

The day Henri B. is there in front of me, will I be able to photograph him, as well, while looking elsewhere? I doubt it.

Midnight. I reach the pensione. I've been reciting his name since the Ponte dell'Accademia. I remove my wig.

Today, for the first time in my life, someone called me a good-looking blond. (10-11)

(Click to enlarge.)

The narrative that emerges is one which mirrors the process of reading itself, luring as it does whomever might engage the collection into the labyrinthine city of Venice as it materializes in the photographs and described close encounters of Calle and her subject.

In the second section of the book, Please follow me, Jean Baudrillard engages Calle's project, drawing theoretically from his earlier work in Seduction. Here, Baudrillard works through his claim that seduction is an act of reversible itineracy. He uses Calle's narrative as his initial guide,

Residue--the roads we walk, the paths we take, leave their residue on us. Just as we do on them.

The Shadow: yet another play of surfaces. The shadow is anchored to its caster. Its existence is wholly contingent on the light that surrounds that caster. Too many sources will wash the shadows out. One source of light will distort the image beyond recognition. A few sources will cast a multitude of intersecting shadows. In The Arcades Project, Benjamin includes the following image and caption:
"An English etching of 1775, a genre scene, shows an artist making a silhouette of <her> model by following the shadow which the latter casts on the wall. It is entitled The Origin of Painting. Cabinet des Estampes, Kc1, 164a,1" (AP 681) [Y6,4]

See Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". . . . ]

"Multiplication of traces through the modern administrative apparatus" [I6a,4] (AP 225).
"Plush--the material in which traces are left especially easily" [I5,2] (AP 222)
"The étuis, dust covers, sheaths with which the bourgeois household of the preceding century encased its utensils were so many measures taken to capture and preserve traces" [ I7,6] (AP 226)
The Squintar is a mirrored camera attachment that allows photographers to aim the camera at one object while photographing another.

The Arcades Project Project is part of Heather Marcelle Crickenberger's doctoral dissertation entitled "The Structure of Awakening": Walter Benjamin and Progressive Scholarship in New Media which was defended and passed on June 27, 2007 at the University of South Carolina. The committe members are as follows: John Muckelbauer, Ph.D, Judith James, Ph.D., Dan Smith, Ph.D, Brad Collins, Ph. D., and Anthony Jarrells, Ph.D. Copyright 2007 by Heather Marcelle Crickenberger. All rights reserved. lems concerning what you find here, feel free to contact me at marcelle@thelemming.com. You are also invited to leave a message for me and other visitors HERE. The Arcades Project Project or The Rhetoric of Hypertext