French conceptual artist Sophie Calle just launched a 25 year installation in a a cemetery.
I met Sophie over 25 years ago through the late gallerist Pat Hearn and became fascinated with her and her work which includes The Blinds where she asked blind people what the most beautiful thing in the world is and then photographed it and them and her recent exhibit at Paula Cooper Gallery Absence, a project inspired by the loss of Calle’s mother, among others.
Her latest is Here Lie the Secrets of the Visitors of Green-Wood Cemetery, a participatory art project where Calle erected an white marble obelisk that bears that inscription plus artwork’s name.
At the base is a small slot where participants can insert their written secrets, sealed in an envelope. Whenever the obelisk fills up, Calle will return to Brooklyn to burn the contents. They will be burnt at the same cemetery facilities that handle the deceased. It’s a project that is deeply personal, and inherently cathartic.
I have a personal relationship with Green-Wood myself. I lived nearby was there 20 years ago this January on my grandmother’s birthday, and that night I met my ex. We were together 8+ years had one of our first dates there, and lived in a church with a cemetery in the back yard. I have a close friend interred there and it’s also the final resting place of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, poet Paul Schmidt and conductor Leonard Bernstein.
The 25-year duration of the project is based on the practice of cemeteries in Paris, where buying a grave “for eternity” only guarantees you a 25-year occupancy. If you don’t get visitors, the plot can be turned over to someone else.
As part of the opening festivities of the installation last month, Calle spent the day personally manning the project sitting with participants as they unburdened themselves. Artnet spoke to her.
“The experience was exciting, exhausting, moving, and ambiguous because of the thin line there is between secret and confession. Shall I give advice? Stay silent? Have an opinion? I followed my intuition.”
Calle’s mother died in 2006 and her father in 2015.
“Maybe because of the expression emporter ses secrets dans sa tombe—to take one’s secrets to the grave—maybe because I like graveyards, maybe because lately I have had a lot of deaths in my life.”
Here Lie the Secrets of the Visitors of Green-Wood Cemetery is on view at Greenwood Cemetery, 500 25th Street, Brooklyn, April 29, 2017–2042.
(Photos, Leandro Justen; via Artnet News)