Unlikely pairing share a passion for provocation

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 December, 2014, 5:45pm
UPDATED : Monday, 08 December, 2014, 5:45pm

Aida Makoto & Sophie Calle

Galerie Perrotin

Until January 10

Renowned French artist Sophie Calle explains that her pairing with Aida Makoto of Japan resulted from seeing his work at the Hara Museum in Japan. Aida exhibited a head brace as a mechanism to prevent a child's attempt at suicide (although its title, Attempted Suicide Machine 4th Version implies otherwise). Calle liked its absurdity because she says she does not like children. So, a joint interest in provocation brings these seemingly different artists together.

Taking prominence in the gallery are 176 photographs from Calle's 15-year Cash Machine project - showing portraits with text of people withdrawing money from an ATM, an act Calle equates to visiting a confessional booth. The changing ideas to realise a final outcome for this project are explained in the accompanying video, Unfinished, an artwork itself.

Her project is all about money: this acknowledges that the original photographs were taken by a security camera to simply "protect the ATM's money". We see Calle interview bankers and passers-by, inviting them to "speak of money" or "tell me how much you earn". Everyone refuses. Calle even asks a chemist to create a perfume with the scent of money - its "dampness, ink, paper and being unclean".

Aida's supposed scatological obsession with Comet-chan, a life-size manga-inspired sculpture of a bright-eyed girl, is, however, more a spoof of other Japanese artists. In contrast, a video and reproduction of the actual annotated speech of "The video of a man calling himself Japan's prime minister making a speech at an international assembly" is an uncomfortable critique on hegemony and nationalism. The speech begins quietly with an apology for Japanese war aggression, then evolves into a denunciation of globalisation and the use of English as its lingua franca.

Calle's compelling Voir la Mer is a set of videos of Istanbul residents who have never seen the sea. Calle takes them to the Black Sea and asks them to turn around "to show these eyes that had just seen the sea for the first time". It's a striking finale to an exhibition of many emotions.

John Batten