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What Haunts

Cathy McLaurin

INFO
May 31, 2005 – Jun 20, 2005
In the Window

Cathy McLaurin

WHAT HAUNTS ARE NOT THE DEAD
BUT THE GAPS LEFT WITHIN US
BY THE SECRETS OF OTHERS.

NICOLAS ABRAHAM
L’ECORCE ET LE NOYAU

Inspired by the artists’ family secrets, “what haunts… ” is an interactive art installation that explores secrets and their universality. Viewers respond and participate by reading and adding, in anonymity, their own –often-intimate – secrets to the installation. The varied secrets evoke sadness, horror, shock, humor, and reassurance. 

The installation, created in 2002, consists of a wall papered with secrets and a booth where participants add secrets to the project. Written in pencil on hand-cut 4”x5” newsprint rectangles, the secrets have the visual tone of a whisper, on an intimate scale. More than 2500 handwritten secrets have been collected to date. The newsprint yellows over time, evoking remnants of the past, old family letters, and nostalgia. The booth creates a private and meditative space – a confessional. Participants write and then deposit their secrets into a locked box. During the time in which the project is installed, the secrets are periodically unlocked and added to an adjoining wall. Thus, participants experience the power of having written their secret and then seeing it posted alongside those of previous participants. “Viewers often spend hours reading all of the secrets posted on the walls and often come back multiple times to view the project… “what haunts..”…demonstrates how much people have in common and how common their secrets are. It is a snap shot of what makes us human and of the human condition.” (1) Participants are invited to note where they are from in an accompanying project notebook and their origins include: Liberia, West Africa; Philadelphia; Brooklyn, NY; Venezuela; El Paso, TX; Chillan, Chile; Guatemala City; Libertyville, IL; Hermosillo, Mexico; Equador; among many others.

“what haunts…” has been installed in seventeen venues to date (in MA, OR, CT, and NC), including a lounge, a church, two college campuses, and a public library. Plans are in the works to travel the project internationally, expanding the participation in and viewing of “what haunts…” across ethnicity, class, education, race, and income levels. A project web site will be completed by June 2005, allowing participants to continue reading the contributed secrets: Cathy McLaurin

1. Kathleen Bitetti, “Participation Required” exhibition statement, Lillian Immig Gallery @ Emmanuel College, October 2004.

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