Research point – Examples of relay: Sophie Calle and Sophy Rickett

Sophie Calle: Take Care of Yourself 

Calle 1    Calle 2

This piece of work was created in response to an email Calle received from her lover breaking off their relationship. This is a good example of relay in that she asked over 100 women (plus a parrot!), to analyse the email according to their professional interest. It made me think about how modern day communication methods can give out the wrong message; for example texting. Many times I have misread (and sent) messages that have caused upset or concern. I tend to over-analyse the written elements of the OCA course modules, also I read and re-read tutor feedback to ensure I have processed the correct message. All narrative is of course subjective and therefore open to interpretation. So I can only imagine the angst of trying to read between the lines of a letter from someone important, especially in a relationship. Calle says At first it was therapy; then art took over. After I month I felt better. There was no suffering. It worked. The project had replaced the man.” She feared he might come back seeking a reconciliation, which would have ruined the whole thing. This final comment implies a cold, calculating response, although she claims it was not revenge? I certainly agree that it reflects postmodern approaches to narrative. The work, mixing image and text (the email),  exhibitions and the book publication has triggered a social response thus demonstrating how open to interpretation a piece of narrative can be. In a way Calle is no longer the author, the piece of work has a life of its own.

Sophy Rickett: Objects in the Field 


“…Back at home I put on my new glasses and for the first time I can see clearly beyond the middle distance. The tree I am looking at is alive, each and every leaf a separate, distinct entity. A movement of wind causes boughs to bend. They move and shake separately and also as one. It is all connected, one organism, but made up of a million shades of colour, inflections of movement.”

Rickett 1

“..He talked me through its internal mechanisms, hesitantly at first, as if the details, its idiosyncrasies were coming back to him as he spoke, remembering with his hands. I hadn’t been sure what I was looking at. I’d felt confused, bereft of knowledge, with a sense that my understanding only seemed to converge with his on the subject of photography, and also I realized later, optics.”   (Taken from Objects in the Field (text), 2013. Pamphlet distributed freely to visitors of the exhibition at Kettle’s Yard, 2013)

This work connects precision and accuracy with a more relaxed artistic approach. However for me the photographs alone do not appeal. It is the meeting and working relationship between the photographer and the scientist,  the measured, then poetic dialogue that accompanies the work which intrigues and captures my imagination. Rickett worked closely with the scientist, Dr Roderick Willstrop, a retired astronomer who, in 1980, designed and built the Three Mirror Telescope – a camera telescope in the grounds of the Institute of Astronomy. When Rickett and Dr Willstrop met he was preparing to have the negatives archived and Rickett started making her own large scale prints of them. The written text of her time with Dr Willstrop includes memories triggered from childhood; “…to do with using lenses to extend the limits of our vision, which in turn took me back to memories having my eyes tested in a hospital corridor when I was young, and all the language around that.”  It is the narrative describing the conflicting closeness and distance that Rickett encountered with Willstrop, the random recording of moments in time as the project developed that for me makes a visually and emotionally stronger piece of work than the series of individual images.  She uses the project to explore ideas around how meaning and interpretation can be fluid and subjective. “..he went to great lengths to try to make me understand the science.  Some of the time I’d find it really hard going, and would feel quite lost and confused.  I wanted to evoke a sense of that in the finished work; a sense that in some way we don’t completely fit together, that we are not occupying the same ground, and that there is a kind of resistance between us and the work that we do.  

Rickett, Sophy. Objects in the field. Available from  [Accessed 10th July 2016]
Boothroyd, Sharon. Sophy Rickett. Photoparley. Available from: [Accessed 10th July 2016]