Sophie Calle, the French conceptual artist, has made a career out of such controversy, consciously treading the line between the personal and the public. Her current installation, "Sophie Calle: Public Places -- Private Spaces," is inspired by the Jerusalem eruv. For this work, Calle interviewed 14 residents of Jerusalem, both Israelis and Palestinians, and asked them to take her to a public place in the city they considered private. The result is a collection of photographs, accompanied by Calle's writing and transcriptions of the interviews, of rather commonplace sites -- a wall, a bench, an alleyway, or a street. Although there is nothing extraordinary about the locations themselves, they acquire significance and grandeur when filtered through the lens of personal experience. The poignant stories of the subjects transform an open, universal space into a closed, individual one: The bench becomes one woman's romantic fantasy, when she recalls the man who sat silently admiring her from afar, and a street where a little girl was hit by a bus becomes another woman's recurrent nightmare. Although this exhibit differs from Calle's trademark autobiographical pieces in form, it is typical in that it defies the separation of the private realm from the public domain. As with most of her projects, Calle herself is never too far removed. By leaving the cultural identities of her subjects ambiguous -- it is unclear who is Israeli and who is Palestinian -- she subtly imbues the collection with her own opinions on the Middle East conflict.
Calle's art, which has been compared to journalism and detective work, chips away at the walls between artist and subject, truth and fiction. Bordering on voyeurism, her trademark techniques are adopting disguises, following strangers, and role-playing. In "The Hotel," for example, she masqueraded as a Venetian chambermaid, pilfering through the rooms of unsuspecting guests, reading their journals, rummaging through their handbags, and yes, their garbage, to piece together a portrait of the person from the "clues" she discovered. A storyteller as well as a visual artist, Calle's work functions as a narrative, telling unfinished stories, breaking down the wall between the art and the viewer.