In 1992 author Paul Auster borrowed eight projects from French artist Sophie Calle for Maria, a fictional character in his novel Leviathan; Auster also included two projects of his own invention. Calle, in return, enacted and documented these projects created by Auster and included them, along with her initial projects, in her book Double Game. Double Game begins with these words: “Intrigued by this double, I decided to turn Auster’s novel into a game and to make my own particular mix of reality and fiction.”1
Calle’s autofictional projects seemingly describe events in her life: a job as
a chambermaid, a job as a striptease artist, a day spent being followed by a detective. Calle’s use of autofiction, a self-conscious play between autobiography and the novel, emphasizes the impossibility of a coherent and unified subject. I argue that Calle’s book plays with structures and forms usually associated with truth telling (autobiography, archives, photography, the report, the diary) by constructing evidence that relies on these structures for legitimacy, only to expose gaps, inconsistencies, and fictions as a space for play and critique.
The French version of Double Game, a
series of seven separate books, has the title Doubles-jeux. Jeu in French is understood to mean both game and play, while also a homonym for ‘I’ [je]. Doubles-jeux is a double-cross—to deceive and betray, in the sense of a red herring. Thus the title, Double Game, already speaks to Calle’s autofictional accounts in which the narrating “I” is always unreliable and the events described always undecideable.
My dissertation focuses on the contingency of Calle’s documents by highlighting the spaces between what is said to have happened, what we are shown, and what may have taken place.
Aligning Calle’s work with performance, and recent discussions about performance documentation, enables a more focused interrogation of the relationship between the event and its representation. My dissertation argues that as a collection of autofictional traces, Double Game performs the autofictional subject at play in the archive.
1. Sophie Calle with the participation of Paul Auster, Double Game (Paris: Violette Editions, 1999), 1.