In the latest issue of Freize magazine, on which I've just been spilling my sandwich, the fantastic French author Sophie Calle is asked 'what images keep you company in the space where you work?' She answers: 'In my studio there is a stuffed giraffe that I bought when my mother died, to replace her. Her name is Monique too, and she looks at me from on high with sadness and irony, just like my mother did.' She concludes the questionnaire with 'I don't think my mother would have chosen to return as a stuffed giraffe in the studio of her daughter, but she is dead.' It sounds a little cold without the photo, but when you see the giraffe, which you can here, it is more complex, has humour and remembrance alongside grief.
My mum passed away nearly two years ago, which meant I only saw a little of Calle's film of her own mother almost imperceptibly leaving life when I visited the Venice Biennale in 2007. It was far too close to home to bear. I wasn't ready to hold my own breath in that way again. The picture of her giraffe is going up on the wall at home, a small lesson in holding the facts and feelings of one's life in creative focus.