Sophie Calle’s Latest Art Project Allows Visitors to Bury and Cremate Their Secrets

A photo of Green-Wood Cemetery.

The historic Green-Wood Cemetery, located in Brooklyn, NY.
Photo credit: Felix Lipov / Shutterstock

There’s a power and a draw in the telling of secrets. You just have to look at the runaway success of Frank Warren’s PostSecret project to see that. Since 2005, tens of thousands of people sent their secrets in to Warren as postcards, releasing them to the public in anonymity.

The project sold five books, an app (pulled not for lack of popularity, but for abuse concerns), and an immense, searchable archive. It’s been imitated in a dozen other countries and several other English-speaking websites, and wasn’t the first of its kind.

Secrets draw us, in the telling as much as the hearing. We like the idea of them leaving our hands and dissipating, losing their power over us.

This is the sense behind “Here Lie the Secrets of the Visitors of Green-Wood Cemetery,” an art project by French artist Sophie Calle in a Brooklyn graveyard. She worked together with Creative Time, one of New York’s nonprofit public arts organizations.

“Here Lie the Secrets” is a hollow marble sculpture, a gravestone-like obelisk, which will stand in the Green-Wood Cemetery for the next twenty-five years. In opposition to PostSecret, secrets left in the obelisk are not to be shared. Instead, Calle will return at measured intervals to collect them and “cremate” them, removing those secrets from the world.

There’s a great power to leaving your secrets behind, if you believe in that. And the placement of this project, in a cemetery founded 179 years ago, long before this land was folded in by New York City’s sprawl, is the perfect place for it. This is a place to find rest and peace, a place to leave thoughts that trouble you.

Green-Wood Cemetery is found at 500 25th St, in Sunset Park. “Here Lie the Secrets” is near the entrance at 25th and 5th Avenue.

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