Annik Gaudet's first film, called Confidante, a feminine word that means protector, played at an art show in a Creighton Street basement last week. It's one of two multimedia responses to Gaudet's collection, now 60 secrets strong. She will display her second response, an interactive sound sculpture, at Eyelevel Gallery on Tuesday, May 19 as part of their 35 Days of Non-organized Art.
"When given the chance I think people want to confide," the art student from New Brunswick says during an interview on her sunny backyard stoop. "There is a risk they take that is involved in sending their personal information to an anonymous figure, but I think it's the anonymity that makes them feel comfortable."
Gaudet began collecting secrets in January for her Ideas and Process class. As an experiment, she posted an online classified ad that read: "Contribute to art and get something off your chest. Send your anonymous secrets to firstname.lastname@example.org. She also placed a small black box, blank pieces of paper and a pen beside the toilet in the Upstairs Apartment Gallery on Agricola to tempt art lovers in the middle of their private business.
It worked. Gaudet garnered a variety of handwritten and emailed responses.
"You get your regular kind of secrets about doing things behind your roommate's back or a lot of sexual things. I find that 75 percent is sexually related, which kind of makes sense. I got one in particular that was pretty like, whoa, maybe I didn't need to know that."
Mostly Gaudet's classified ad drew curiosity and positive responses from Haligonians, but some respondents accused her of copying the popular website PostSecret.blogspot.com. Instead, Gaudet says she wanted to be subtler than the online outlet where individuals confess their secrets on postcards.
"I started thinking about sites like PostSecret and how they use people's curiosity to make it work. Popular culture thrives on that these days. People like to sensationalize personal things."
That's why she decided not to reveal the secrets.
"I am the protector of the secrets. People can just send stuff to me and get it off their chest. Just because it can have more of a therapeutic value to it. I don't judge. People can tell me the secret and it won't leak."
The challenge for Gaudet was to make art from secrets without revealing them. Her second project, the sound sculpture at Eyelevel, is a pouch that resembles a womb in size and shape. The artist crocheted it from grey alpaca wool. It hangs from the ceiling by a single grey thread.
"It looks like a strange organic object that needs or encourages further investigation. People can be curious and come up to it."
Gaudet typed out the emailed secrets on her typewriter then tucked them safely in the pouch. She expects gallery visitors to add their own secrets to the collection. Though it appears modest, as Gaudet meant it to be, a second surprise is hidden inside. Sewn into the bottom of the womb is a contact microphone that's connected to an amp on the floor by a wool-covered umbilical cord.
"A contact microphone picks up sounds from objects and surfaces as opposed to frequencies in the air," she explains. "As they put their secrets in there, they can hear the secrets inside, kind of the physicality of the secrets rather than actually hearing the secrets. It's a sound piece and at the same time it's really tactile." Gaudet wants someone who confided a secret to see the interactive pouch during her single-day show at Eyelevel.
"I really hope in my heart that someone who sent me a secret will see it because this is why I'm doing it. I want to close the circle. They did something for me and I want them to realize that I did something for them."
After the show, she wants the project to continue and evolve. She is still collecting. "You know that feeling, right? When you have something inside of you and it tears you up? I want to be that person you can send this information to. I can just store it."
Annik Gaudet, Tuesday, May 19 at Eyelevel Gallery, 2063 Gottingen.