AS CONCEPTUAL artist Sophie Calle’s cat Souris (Mouse) was being put down in 2014, Calle’s friend, the singer Camille, sang a song she’d composed into his ear. After a funeral service Calle laid Souris to rest in her garden in Paris, his grave surrounded by daffodils, but she later asked another friend, artist Laurie Anderson, to make him a song. “Laurie knew him well,” Calle says. She began to toy with the idea of an album.
The project evolved slowly. “I cannot really tell how it started and when it really ended,” she says. From chance encounters and meetings with friends of friends, Calle built a three-LP compilation with 39 contributions from artists including Bono and Pharrell. Beginning October 13, visitors to Perrotin Gallery in Paris can listen to the compositions in several rooms and listening alcoves as part of Calle’s fifteenth show at the gallery.
Of the 40 artists who contributed to Souris Calle, Calle says, about ten knew Souris. For those who didn’t, she sent along photos and descriptions of him, as well as a four-minute movie about his personality and habits and their life together. “I was enchanted by his grace,” she wrote. “He was the funniest, the smartest. His portrait was my screen saver. Whenever, as they always do, parents showed pictures of their children, I, not to be outdone, would pull out one of him.”
Some artists composed songs that are specifically about Souris, and others composed songs about cats in general—missing a departed cat, or living with one. Seven compositions include Calle’s voice, singing or sampled; one is a solo song. The same video Calle sent the musicians will play in an adjoining room, and a selection from her “Autobiographies” series of framed text and photographs that relate to his death will also be on display. Though many of Calle’s works are not linked to events in her life, several have dealt with personal loss: “When my father died, I did a project. When my mother died, I did a project. I don’t do it for therapeutic reasons.” Like those works, Calle says, Souris Calle is about absence rather than grief. The project didn’t give her closure, but when asked if she’ll ever get another cat she says, “I think so, I think so. Maybe when this project is over, I’ll be ready.”
Souris Calle will be accompanied by an unrelated work, Parce que, Calle’s response to people who photograph something before really looking at it. Each photograph in the series is covered by a curtain embroidered with text explaining why she took it. Parce que, she says, “is the way it happened in my brain. You see something first, then you decide to photograph it.” A curtain over a town exit sign opposite a cemetery reads “Parce que quoi d’autre après plus rien?” (“Because what else after nothing more?”)