I received an email telling me it was over.
I didn’t know how to respond.
It was almost as if it hadn’t been meant for me.
It ended with the words, “Take care of yourself.”
And so I did.
I asked 107 women (including two made from wood and one with feathers),
chosen for their profession or skills, to interpret this letter.
To analyze it, comment on it, dance it, sing it.
Dissect it. Exhaust it. Understand it for me.
Answer for me.
It was a way of taking the time to break up.
A way of taking care of myself.
I have been meaning to write and reply to your last email for a while. At the same time,
I thought it would be better to talk to you and tell you what I have to say outloud.
Still, at least it will be written.
As you have noticed, I have not been quite right recently. As if I no longer recognized myself in my own existence. A terrible feeling of anxiety, which I cannot really fight, other than keeping on going to try and overtake it, as I have always done. When we met, you laid down one condition: not to become the “fourth”. I stood by that promise: it has been months now since I have seen the “others,”because i obviously could find no way of seeing them without making you one of them.
I thought that would be enough, I thought that loving you and your love would be enough so that this anxiety – which constantly drives me to look further afield and which meens that I will never feel quiet and at rest or probably even just happy or “generous”- would be calmed when I was with you, with the certainty that the love you have for me was the best for me, the best I have ever had , you know that. I thought that my writing would be a remedy, that my “disquiet” would dissolve into it so that i could find you. But no. Infact it even became worse, I cannot even tell you the sort of state I feel I am in. so I started calling the “others” again this week.
And i know what that means to me and the cycle that it will drag me into.
I have never lied to you and I do not intend to start lying now.
There was another rule that you laid down at the beginning of our affair: the day we
stopped being lovers you would no longer be able to envisage seeing me. You know this
constraint can only ever strike me as disastrous, and unjust (when you still see B. and K. …)
and understandable (obviously…); so I can never become your friend.
But now you can gauge how significant my decision is from the fact that I am prepared to bend to your will, even though there are so many things – not seeing you or talking to you or catching the way you look at people and things, and your gentleness towards me – that I will miss terribly.
Whatever happens, remember that I will always love you in the same way, my own way, that I have ever since I first met you; that it will carry on within me and, I am sure, will never die.
But it would be the worst kind of masquerade to prolong a situation now when you know as well as I do; it has become irreparable by the standards of the very love I have for you and
you have for me a love which is now forcing me to be so frank with you, as final proof of what
happened between us and will always be unique.
I would have liked things to have turned out differently.
Take care of yourself.
Sophie Calle’s Take Care of Yourself is a body of work (letters, writings, videos) created for the French Pavilion of the 2007 Venice Biennale – curated by Daniel Buren.
Sophie Calle’s book entitled ‘Take care of yourself’ was published by Actes Sud Press on June 1st, 2007 (4 dvd and two leaflefts are inserted).
4000 copies of this book have been published in English.
For further informations: +33 (01) 1 55426308
To buy the book online: http://www.artbook.com/9782742768936.html
Image cover: Sophie Calle, from “Take Care of Yourself,” French Intelligence Officer, Louise (2007). courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery.