“Gotham Handbook” is a reflection of the complex relationship between Sophie Calle and the New York novelist Paul Auster. In his 1992 novel Leviathan, he based the character of Maria upon Sophie Calle‘s life. Adopting some of the idiosyncracies which Auster had invented for the Maria character, Sophie Calle in return asked the author to invent a fictive character which she would attempt to resemble. Since Auster did not wish to take personal responsibility for what might happen to her, he chose instead to write out „Personal Instructions for S.C. on How to Improve Life in New York City (Because she asked…)“.
Following Auster‘s instructions, Calle picked one spot in the city as her own – a telephone box – where she would spend an hour every day, watching everything that happened to it, keeping track of everyone who passed by or stopped. For one week, Calle kept a detailed written and photographic diary of her efforts: counting up the number of smiles she gave and received, the number of people who used her decorated public phone booth, her meaningless conversations with strangers and the food and cigarettes she distributed to people who looked hungry. The result is “Gotham Handbook” – a series of seven framed panels containing texts and photos of every day of the week – reflecting her desire for ritualistic fulfilment and storytelling. Gotham Handbook ends when the telephone company takes down Calle’s intervention and tosses it in a nearby bin.
(taken from artnews.org)
The full diary and photographs of the Gotham Handbook can now be seen at Hamburg’s Galerie der Gegenwart.