Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Chapter 35: Circus and Secrets

A voice whispered thickly in my ear. "You are now in The Box. What goes on in The Box must stay in The Box, pass it on to those that enter." Nothing like a secret to bond an audience, is there? What happened next does indeed stay in The Box. Straps were involved, and it was another stunningly memorable evening at Jacksons Lane, that's all I'm saying. 

There is excitement to be had in anticipating the revelation of a secret, and thanks to the Boylexe boys from the previous chapter, and the news that "Gypsy" (the musical about the life of the eponymous Vaudeville performer) is coming to Chichester Festival Theatre this Autumn, I have been thinking recently about the art of teasing it out.  They say that Gypsy Lee Rose could drive men wild by taking quarter of an hour to remove a glove - what's the literary equivalent? There are moments, it seems to me, that the world is spinning on the turn of a secret. There is that which we see, and that which is hidden, and it is that implicit lure of an exposé and scents of mystery, that keep our curiosity engaged and our minds exploring. Life is one big, beautiful burlesque. 

There is a much to be said for sharing a valued secret as well, engaging in "the currency of intimacy", a term coined by Frank Warren, creator of the "PostSecret" Project. I came across his project in an article called "The art - and science - of sharing a secret"  a couple of days ago on Facebook, flagged as part of the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) ideas and talks page I follow. He invited people to send him, anonymously, a secret they had never shared before, and the floodgates opened. Entries now number over a million. Frank discovered:

"Secrets can take many forms.  They can be shocking or silly or soulful.  
They can connect us to our deepest humanity or with people we will never meet (/again)."  

One day, the photo-postcard below, featured on Frank's site, inspired Mathew Prepost to set up his own site posting on-line pictures from lost and found cameras and memory cards. Using "the leverage of the kindness of strangers" he managed to connect and reunite a number of priceless memories with their owners. He is mentioned in Frank's video clip above, and wrote the article on "The Lost and Found Bin of the Digital Age". 


Another secret-sharing space, mentioned in the TED article, is Jared Brickman's site OneHelloWorld. Jared invites people to send him their secrets on a voicemail, which he then translates into a musical score. The release through the sharing of secrets literally becomes music to our ears. 

So you see, not only is there an art to keeping a secret, there is currently art, the connective tissue of society, being made out of sharing a secret.

That thought was further brought home this week by the return of a friend of mine, Anne, who has just spent time in Vegas. Vegas, of course, is its own circus. While there, Anne was involved in an art installation called "Tell Me Your Secrets" by the artist brian gonzalez/TAXIPLASM, part of the art movement Contaminate. Anne, among others, shared a secret, which was then transformed through algorithm  into music. The sound was then carried to a performer inside a pyramid of mirror who reflects in her "chamber of vulnerability" and "painfully yet cathartically redefines and reinterprets her own reflection" (see website :Tell Me Your Secrets ).

The performance of secrets is as much of a zeitgeist as circus, inhabiting a space rooted in the immersive experience. Common ground is evident in Contaminate's Manifesto:


Here’s to the pioneers, explorers, creators. To the innovators, inventors, and entrepreneurs.
To the ones who know life to be a creative act: they mold it and push it until it fits them.
They dent flat worlds and invent new art forms, aesthetics, technologies, social structures, and cultural movements.
They see art as immersion. They are oddballs who outwit the rules.
We bridge the many gaps between brainchild and full-grown execution.
We draw maps alongside such pioneers, who wander territories without worry of results, who always search and never settle.
We are always on their side because they antagonize the humdrum.

So there you go.  Circus and Secrets.  Who knew?!

Tamzen Moulding:   Fire

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