Pharrell, Bono, and Dozens of Other Musicians Record an Album in Memory of Conceptual Artist Sophie Calle’s Late Cat

The French conceptual artist collaborated with 38 all-star musicians.

Sophie Calle. Photo: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for ICP.

French conceptual artist Sophie Calle has enlisted 38 musicians—including Pharrell Williams, Jarvis Cocker, Lou Doillon, and Bono—to contribute original music for her latest show in Paris. They had a very specific assignment: write a song dedicated to the memory of her late cat, Souris.

Following the feline’s death in 2014, Calle’s friend, the American artist Laurie Anderson, composed a song for the beloved pet. The gift prompted Calle to consider recruiting others to record a full-fledged memorial album.

The artist told the Wall Street Journal that the project evolved through fortuitous encounters with other A-list contributing musicians, including Michael Stipe, as well as musically inclined artists, like Ragnar Kjartansson. 

Of all of the musicians who contributed to the LP, Calle says that about 10 knew her cat personally. She sent those who had never met Souris photographs and descriptions to help them get acquainted, as well as a four-minute video that documented the pair’s everyday life together and the cat’s particular habits.

Many contributors chose to compose pieces specifically about Souris, while others wrote songs about cats in general and some focused on the broader themes of grief, loss, and absence.

Sophie Calle, Souris (2017). ©Sophie Calle /ADAGP Paris 2018. Photo by Claire Dorn, courtesy Perrotin.

The resulting three-volume compilation featuring 39 songs debuts at Calle’s solo show at Galerie Perrotin in Paris, which opened on Saturday. Visitors can listen to each track at stations around the gallery and view the video Calle sent to musicians for inspiration, as well as a selection of accompanying texts, photographs, and other works dealing with loss and grief. 

In an interview with artnet News over the summer, Calle reflected on how the loss of her cat of 17 years had been made more painful by the callous responses from those around her. “When you say you’re sad about the cat, it’s a bit obscene for people,” she told us. “You can’t say that. I mean, if I say my mother or my father is dead, everyone tells me, ‘Oh, poor thing, she lost her mother, oh, poor thing, she lost her father,’ but if we say that about our cat, we seem ridiculous. It makes me laugh, when for me, in my daily life, it was almost more violent, because I lived with my cat. I didn’t live with my parents.”

The LPs, then, are a collaborative artwork that seeks to build community out of what Calle describes as an isolating experience. Calle, who often explores trauma, grief, and loss in her work, and who is known to collaborate with artists in other genres, says the project is not quite therapy—but it is a way of seeking closure.

“Maybe afterwards I will have another cat, but for the moment I haven’t wanted to,” Calle told artnet News. “He’s still here.”

View the full list of artists who contributed to the album below.

AaRon, Laurie Anderson, Juliette Armanet, Mathieu Baillot & Mazarine Pingeot, Alex Beaupain, Benjamin Biolay, Bono, Brigitte, Camille, Arnaud Cathrine and Florent Marchet, Jeanne Cherhal, Christophe, Clarika, Pascal Comelade, Jarvis Cocker, Lou Doillon, Stephan Eicher & Frédéric Lo, Thomas Fersen, Feu! Chatterton, Irène Jacob, Jean-Michel Jarre, Keren Ann, Kincy, Ragnar Kjartansson & Kristín Anna, Pierre Lapointe and Albin de la Simone with Sophie Calle, Miossec, Mirwais, Fabrizio Moretti, Joseph Mount, The National, Linus Öhrn, Ayumi Paul, Marie Modiano & Peter von Poehl, Raphael, Nicola Sirkis, Casey Spooner & Wolfram, Michael Stipe, Mina Tindle, and Pharrell Williams.

Sophie Calle’s “Two Projects: Parce que & Souris Calle” is on view at Perrotin Paris at 76 rue de Turenne until December 22. 

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