The Ghosts of Orsay · A Short Film by Sonja van Hamel

Les Fantômes d'Orsay
© ADAGP / Sophie Calle / Sonja van Hamel

Inspired by the exhibition "SOPHIE CALLE and her guest Jean-Paul Demoule. THE GHOSTS OF ORSAY" presented at the Musée d'Orsay until Sunday, June 19, 2022, Sonja van Hamel, a multidisciplinary artist who is a graphic designer, illustrator, animator and musician, has made a short film, The Ghosts of Orsay. Discover below the video, a text written by Sonja van Hamel in which she explains her intention and her creative process.


My intention for this film was to travel back in time to the abandoned Grand Hotel d’Orsay in 1978, when Sophie Calle photographed and collected its remains. 

I wanted to recreate “The Ghosts of Orsay” by composing a soundscape of imaginary echoes of the people, objects and spaces that were once there and passing through. 

By means to stay close to Sophie’s genuine material, the audio fragments were all recorded by me in April 2022. Backstage in the museum I captured the acoustics of the remaining parts of the hotel d’Orsay : the hall, staircase and ballroom. But also the sound of the elevator that now occupies room 501.

Additionally, I used recordings I made earlier this year of our old family house, from the same era, that has similar creaking wooden floors and squeaking doorknobs. The originality of the audio adds to our experience of space and time, and emphasizes the mysteries of how we make and recreate our memories. 

A personal narrative was mixed in by using the voice of my 85-year-old mother’s voice, who lived in Paris during the 1960, just around the corner from the musée d’Orsay. Coincidence? I don’t think it exists in narratives we make of our lives; in the stories we tell. 

I was introduced to Sophie Calle’s work when I was in Art School, at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, in 1997. I was immediately intrigued by her work and she stayed with me, in the background, when I was coming of age as an artist. Only to find myself 25 years later making this film about her work. J’ai renoué."


Sonja van Hamel, june 2022