Is it right to use personal, intimate details of one’s life for Art? Afterall those personal experiences are likely to include others? Is it fair to drag others into the public domain for the sake of one’s Art?

A recent trip to see Sophie Calle’s latest exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery Take Care of Yourself left me asking these questions. The idea behind her collection is intriguing. Upon being dumped by her lover by email, she distributes said email to 107 women of an unbelievable array of walks of life – a diplomat, riflewoman, writer, psychiatrist, judge, student, translator, graphic designer, ballerina and scores of others. All were invited to comment on the email, to throw in their 20-cents, to express their thoughts and views and pass judgment in any way they choose. The contributions of these women along with a photographic portrait of each now take their place in Sophie Calle’s exhibition. The utter mass of creativity on display is overwhelming and awe-inspiring in equal measures. But I can’t help but feel a little sorry for Sophie’s ex-lover. Although Sophie kept his identity secret, her exhibition has been an incredible success both here and in France, the man in question knows he is the protagonist of this show. His family and friends must know. They might have told their friends and cousins and work colleagues. A personal moment has suddenly become so public.

An architect friend says that everyone know Sophie Calle uses her personal experiences as inspiration for her art. So the man concerned knew it too before he got involved with her. In very basic words: he knew what he was letting himself in for. Besides they broke up. They are no longer together. So now she can do whatever she likes. This architect friend went further; she claimed that we all secretly love the idea of being the muse of our artist lovers –it’s sexy – we just don’t know if we will be portrayed well or badly and that is just a risk we take.

A musician friend says that although personal experiences can be a positive source of material, an artist must never make really personal revelations. Privacy of others should always be respected; personal details should never be made public. What then of Tracey Emin’s infamous tent declaring the names of every man she has slept with?

So is the best way somewhere between the two? How far does artistic license extend? Do we all find the idea of being an artist’s muse irresistible? Do artists have any responsibilities?


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One Response to “Muse”

  1. Kajol Says:

    Some thought-provoking stuff here. It is understandable that an artist should be able to use their personal experiences as a form of inspiration for their art. However, using an email containing material so personal I believe is a stretch too far.

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