I did a project in 2005 with a fellow graduate student named Christopher Baker. He was doing work with open wireless connections and for better or for worse, he was sniffing iChat conversations and things like that. He was experimenting with that technology while I was interested in the value of art versus the value of private information. Myspace, Facebook and reality TV were becoming more popular and I was interested in the idea of people being willing to share their private lives very openly. It became something to be used for entertainment.
We combined secrets that I had gathered and iChat conversations that he had gathered. We also went through our own private texts, chats and emails and compiled all that information together and dispersed them throughout the city of Minneapolis. Sometimes legally, sometimes not.
Where did you disperse the information gathered?
I got a key to a paper towel dispenser and we randomly went through the town and put secrets there so people could find them happenstance. We were trying to get out this information in ways that they aren’t normally shared.
Do most people tend to hold back from telling their most private secrets?
I think a lot of people do. I’ve gone through all the secrets that we’ve gotten but I won't keep or share all of them. Some people will try to be funny or are obviously making something up. And then others will get very, very personal. I’ll be honest, I would never write a real secret down for this. I’m just too paranoid of people finding out it’s from me. I’ve tried to keep this as anonymous as possible.
Notice any differences between secrets in Atlanta versus Minneapolis?
There are huge overlaps in certain secrets. A large percentage of secrets are about cheating or about a lover. There's a lot of crossover in secrets about people not liking the friends that the have and also a big crossover in being afraid in general, but also of things like death and not being successful.
I’ve got a lot of secrets about picking noses from Atlanta! [laughs] A lot of the ones in Minneapolis dealt with body image and I’ve gotten very few body image secrets from Atlanta.
What's the difference between your project and Post Secret?
When I started in 2005, Post Secret wasn’t as large as it was now. This was all happening at the same time, we just decided to go about it in a very different way. This is more about trying to get people when they aren’t expecting it and not looking for it. They can have private reactions in a private space that’s still located publicly.
What do you plan on doing with all the secrets?
All the secrets that have been gathered will be dispersed on paper towels throughout the city at to be determined locations starting in September. There will be 4,000 paper towels that we'll be printing on.
Also on August 27, at Young Blood Gallery, there will be a public sewing circle where I'm providing around 300 vintage handkerchiefs and people are welcomed to come and sew one of the secrets we’ve collected onto the hanky. It’s playing on the idea of a sewing circle being a gossip circle and it will be in a nonthreatening way. It’ll also be a more permanent record of the project.
The Secrets of Atlanta project will run until October 2011. Find our more here.
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