Have something to get off your chest? In April, the French artist Sophie Calle’s interactive installation Here Lie the Secrets of the Visitors of Green-Wood Cemetery—a marble obelisk with slots for visitors to share their secrets on slips of paper—will début at the historic Brooklyn burial ground and remain on view for 25 years. The piece, presented by the New York-based arts non-profit Creative Time, is the first US iteration of a similar 20-year work installed last year in a Geneva cemetery. The work provides an “opportunity for people to unburden themselves in [a] moment of catharsis, and also a communal sharing of secrets”, says Katie Hollander, Creative Time’s director, who says the project resonated with the organisation as “reflective in terms of our current political as well as emotional state”.
The piece will be inaugurated the weekend of 29-30 April in the presence of the artist, who will meet one-on-one with some of the visitors to transcribe their secrets. (Hollander envisions a waiting system similar to a restaurant, with a sign-up wait list and visitors providing their mobile numbers to be called as they approach the beginning of the queue, encouraging them to explore the cemetery—one of Creative Time’s aims for the project.) There will also be tours of the cemetery during the opening weekend.
Sophie Calle (Photo: Elsa Noblet, Courtesy of Perrotin)
During the next 25 years, Calle will come back to Green-Wood every so often to “cremate” the deposited papers bearing secrets in ceremonial performances. Creative Time expects Calle to return within a few years, when the “grave” is full, and is planning to hold a ceremony and event that Hollander says will be “like a bonfire party”—and not the first such blaze to be held at the cemetery, she adds. Green-Wood will maintain the work for its duration. “Although for us [at Creative Time] 25 years might seem like an eternity, since most of our projects last four to six weeks, for a cemetery, 25 years is a short-term initiative,” Hollander says.
The project is also a nice counterpoint from the more grand and monumental commissions that Creative Time produced in 2016, Hollander says, such as Duke Riley’s majestic Fly By Night performance with 2,000 trained pigeons, and Pedro Reyes’s massive political haunted house installation, Doomocracy. Calle and Creative Time have been in touch for years about doing a project, but “always assumed that if we worked with Sophie it would be on some kind of grand scale,” says Hollander. “When we learned about this project we were really drawn to it because it was actually much more of an intimate and personal experience.”