Monday, 11 February 2008


Via Bête de Jour, here's PostSecret, a really interesting 'art project'.

Essentially, people send in 'postcards' (or, really anything about that size) usually reasonably artistic, and containing a personal secret of theirs. These postcards are then displayed anonymously online for a week (and, as it turns out, in several subsequently released books). Clearly, there's no way of validating the 'truth' of the secrets, and some may even be total fabrications, but they are a really interesting insight into the human condition.

The fact that the posts are only up for a week is frustrating, as having read the (valentine's-themed) ones up there this week, I really want to see other examples, and, indeed, read the entire back catalogue. Though this is not possible, there is a substantial archive here, which, though there are some repeats, and some that are unreadable, provides an excellent insight into the kind of messages you'll see on the site. There's also a couple of 'feedback' type stories about people's experiences with the site.

The site itself provides, I guess, two functions: by providing people with an anonymous and untraceable outlet for secrets that they may be struggling with, it gives the contributors some kind of cathartic relief, and maybe preventing them from saying something that they will regret. For the voyeur, it provides a thoroughly interesting read - each postcard is a tightly structured tale, compressed into a couple of sentences and some art, and leaving so much unsaid that it reminded me of Bambi's six word stories. There is no real background to any of the revelations, just the bare bones of the matter, laid out for all to see, and in this, the reader also finds comfort, by identifying with the shared human emotions and experiences, and connecting with the feelings of these total strangers they will never meet.

Most of the messages deal with relationships or personal anxieties, some with spirituality, some with a past misdeed or event for which the writer feels guilty. There's definately enough variety to keep each card interesting in and of itself. Some of the revelations are mundane and almost funny in their triviality, others are shocking in both their frankness and their content, while others are deeply moving, with more than one bringing tears to my eyes. A small number are even uplifting and optimistic. In a few days I might post links to some of my 'favourites', if you can call them that, though I haven't decided whether picking out specific ones is some sort of a violation of the art. Certainly I want to share the ones that gave me the strongest emotional reaction, but I also want anyone who is interested to have the chance to glance through them without my direction. I looked at the whole archive in an afternoon at work, so it really doesn't take that long to flick through them.

The whole experience left me feeling more emotionally exposed than I have for a long time, with more than one card describing thoughts or feelings I have had incredibly closely. It also made me feel glad, both that there were people out there going through the same troubles as me (and far, far, worse ones), and that there were people willing to share this information with total strangers for the benefit of both parties.

It also left me wondering what I would write. I've got a couple of designs doodled, and now safely stored on my computer. I doubt if I'd send them, but it's nice to have the option.

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