Sophie Calle

Cash Machine, 2003 U.S.A, France

9 B&W prints and digital video 30x40cm each

The museum's collection

Sophie Calle is a French conceptual artist active since the 1970s. Her work often deals in human fragility and centres on questions of identity and intimacy. Calle is famous for her investigative ability to tail strangers and interrogate their private lives.

Calle began composing the series “Cash Machine” in 1991, out of photographs stored in the police station at Minneapolis, in the U.S. These photographs were taken at 20 second intervals by a security camera stationed above a cash machine, with a feed to the police station. Calle obtained three closed circuit security videos and selected a series of images revealing a range of emotions and behaviour ranging between hope fear, disappointment, loss, violence and joy. The contrast between the manner of photograph, which was meant to serve a clinical police investigation, and the emotions expressed in it, emphasizes the space on which the artist seeks to concentrate.

The piece reveals how even the simplest encounter between man and machine evokes emotional responses. That very machine which we all use to draw cash is here revealed as one of the innumerable surveillance devices which we face every day, even without closed circuit cameras:

“In his brilliant article about the electronic databank as a cybernetic version of the Panopticon, Mark Foster argues that “our bodies are tied to networks, to data banks, to information superhighways.” Hence all these data storage sites, to which are bodies are “informationally linked”, “no longer serve as a refuge from surveillance or as a castle around which resistance can gather.” The storage of vast quantities of data, growing with each swipe of a credit card, and essentially with every act of consumption, creates, Foster claims, a “super-Panopticon”, with a difference: the surveyed, who provide the stored data, are essential and willing participants in the surveillance.” (Zygmunt Bauman, “Globalisation: the Human Consequences”, Cambridge, Polity Press 1998)