Creative Time Recruits Sophie Calle to Haunt Green-Wood Cemetery for the Next 25 Years

The French artist is soliciting your secrets for Creative Time's latest major initiative.

A headstone at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. Courtesy of Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Following acclaimed shows at the doomed Domino Sugar Factory and the old Navy Yard, New York’s Creative Time will be taking over yet another historic Brooklyn landmark for an ambitious public art project. This time the venue is Green-Wood Cemetery and the artist is French conceptualist Sophie Calle. “Here Lie the Secrets of the Visitors of Green-Wood Cemetery” will be Creative Time’s longest-running project yet, with planned dates that read, appropriately for the site, more like a lifespan than an exhibition run: 2017–2042.

Kicking off with a two-day event April 29 and 30 (12 p.m.–5 p.m.), the project will invite the public to share their innermost secrets with the artist. Calle will install a marble obelisk amid the graves of the Sunset Park cemetery, a National Historic Landmark, leaving a mailbox-like slot open on its face.

Participants are asked to write down their private thoughts and confessions, slide them into the opening, and into the grave below.

Sophie Calle. Courtesy of Elsa Noblet/Galerie Perrotin.

Sophie Calle. Courtesy of Elsa Noblet/Galerie Perrotin.

“Questions of identity, morality, and voyeurism have long been integral to Calle’s work. We’re thrilled to present this intimate, personal reflection on them, set against the stunning landscape of Green-Wood,” said Katie Hollander, Creative Time’s executive director, in a statement.

“It is a quiet, personal, and yet also public act,” added Creative Time artistic director Nato Thompson. “In a time of such social upheaval, delicate gestures like this gain urgency.”

Calle will be on hand for the two-day performance, which is free and open to the public and will also include tours of the graveyard’s many sculptures and monuments. The artist has designed special maps of Green-Wood for the occasion.

The project will continue following the opening, allowing visitors to Green-Wood to unburden themselves during regular cemetery hours, through 2042.

Green-Wood Cemetery. Courtesy of Creative Time.

Green-Wood Cemetery. Courtesy of Creative Time.

The artist, who represented her native country at the 2007 Venice Biennale, will return periodically over the next quarter century, exhuming the missives once the grave is full. These private messages will then be burned in a ceremonial bonfire.

“Green-Wood has inspired artists for nearly two-centuries. Its juxtaposition of natural beauty with questions of mortality and meaning present a unique stage for Calle’s work,” said Green-Wood president Richard J. Moylan.

The gravestone created for the project will sit near the intersection of Bayside Avenue and Bay Grove Path, near the statues of Dewitt Clinton and the Lispenard Stewart mausoleum.

Here is the artist’s statement on the project:

I was in love with him, but he had decided to leave me. To soften the break-up, he suggested a farewell trip of one week in Seville. I liked the idea though it seemed painful. So I accepted and we went. On the last day, seeing my tears, H. told me a secret. It was a terrible secret, which had poisoned his life. And he was confiding it to me. Only to me. At the very moment he was depriving me of his love, this man offered me, through his confession, the ultimate proof of our intimacy.

H.’s divulgence remained untold, and so will the ones you’ll share with me on April 29 and 30. I’ll be waiting to receive your secrets near a tombstone dedicated to them on Bay Grove Hill, in Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn.

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