Sophie Calle’s work has long dealt with the shadows and specters of intimacy, delving into spaces and sites where the artist’s active engagement with both her subjects and viewers turns the corner from artistic interaction to less easily defined forms. It’s a messy sense of shared space and time, one which the artist takes great care to reflect both her own engagement and the varied perceptions of her participants in equal measure, and one which feels all the more delicate and immediate as a result.
Calle’s work in this vein took center stage at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn this weekend, launching a new ongoing project in conjunction with Creative Time that welcomed visitors to sit with the artist and disclose their own personal secrets. The aptly titled Here Lie the Secrets of the Visitors of Green-Wood Cemetery will continue over the course of the next 25 years, offering a site for intrepid visitors to deposit personal stories, notes and memories where they will remain buried and safe. At the opening event, Calle herself was present, allowing visitors to sit with her for several minutes at a time as she listened and transcribed each closely kept secrets. The result was a sheet of paper, handed off afterwards and deposited in a small, mausoleum-style obelisk, where they will now sit, inaccessible, until Calle returns to exhume secrets and cremate them each time the obelisk is full.
Calle’s role in the exchange with each viewer seemed to offer a nuanced unloading of these closely-held secrets, acting as both confidante and translator in a manner that sees their confession transformed through a series of processes. The final form, a small paper remainder of the holder’s personal experiences, is all that the viewer leaves in the cemetery, a fragment of themselves that carries a promise of one day fading into ash. This poetic change of form places Calle at its center, an agent in this multi-part transmutation that seems to offer a sense of reclamation and renewal for its participants, one which both binds the artist and her participant through an act of intense intimacy, while allowing a simultaneous release for the visitor. It’s a fitting piece for the increasingly warm, welcoming weather of springtime in New York, with viewers leaving the site amidst the blossoming trees and bright sunlight of an April afternoon, refreshed and relieved of a small deeply personal burden or memory.
The site will remain open to any visitor, a collective act of healing and reflection that draws its strength from both a shared purpose and act of collective memory. The project will continue to run through 2042, with visitors to Green-Wood welcome to deposit their own secrets at the project site at any time. Green-Wood is open every day of the week, from 8AM to 5PM.
— D. Creahan and L. LeBoyer
Here Lie the Secrets of the Visitors of Green-Wood Cemetery [Creative Time]