Secret Messages

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Secret Messages
Hengstbachprojekt
Natur/Spur 2
Dreieich, Germany
photo by Birgit Riad

E055_HR_germany_crpadj

Secret Messages
Hengstbachprojekt
Natur/Spur 2
Dreieich, Germany
photo by Marilyn Arsem

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Secret Messages
Hengstbachprojekt
Natur/Spur 2
Dreieich, Germany
photo by Marilyn Arsem

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Secret Messages
Hengstbachprojekt
Natur/Spur 2
Dreieich, Germany
photo by Marilyn Arsem

E047_germtext2_crpadj_2048

Secret Messages
Hengstbachprojekt
Natur/Spur 2
Dreieich, Germany
photo by Marilyn Arsem

E070_HR_germany_crpadj

Secret Messages
Hengstbachprojekt
Natur/Spur 2
Dreieich, Germany
photo by Marilyn Arsem

E076_HR_germany_crpadj

Secret Messages
Hengstbachprojekt
Natur/Spur 2
Dreieich, Germany
photo by Marilyn Arsem

Created in response to the theme of ecology and art, and the idea of traces left in nature, I chose a site along a 'renaturized' stream.

event:
Hengstbachprojekt of the Natur/Spur 2 exhibition
venue:
a public path along the Hengstbach
location:
Dreieich, Germany
sponsor:
Stadtische Galerie
date:
August 2000

Project Notes:

“Secret Messages” was created in response to the exhibition theme of ecology and art, and the idea of traces left in nature. My site was a bench in a public park, along a stream which had been ‘renaturized.’ What was now a babbling, meandering brook had formerly been a drainage canal. Remnants of life upstream sometimes flowed by, but what were we not seeing that had already dissolved in the water? The path behind my bench was another kind of river, as people passed by whose histories mingled.

The piece unfolded over the course of minutes, hours, and days, extending beyond my two week presence at the site. Each day I added several messages at the site. Some were more visible than others, and each decayed and disappeared at a different rate. They were cut into the leaves on the trees and bushes, formed in clay along the edge of the water, released into the stream in floating letters made of ice, and distributed to the viewers in the form of familiar chocolate alphabet biscuits. The messages concerned your awareness of the immediate surroundings, as well as your place in the world and the kind of traces that you will leave.

Each day of the exhibition I also sat on the park bench at the site, and engaged people passing to write a secret for me. They sat with me overlooking the brook, while they thought of a secret. Opening a box, I brought out a small piece of edible paper, on which they wrote. They placed their secret in the box, and then selected someone else’s. After reading it to themselves, they ate it. Did it stay with them forever, or was it gone the next day?

The invitation to exchange secrets enticed the viewers to sit for a moment, and as they relaxed and shifted their attention to their immediate surroundings, they gradually became aware of the words hovering in the air around them. The longer the viewers sat on the bench with me, the more they saw. Reflecting on the questions, they considered how their lives merged with others and with the natural world around them. They were led to contemplate what they would leave behind, and how their trace would eventually dissolve back into the earth. Our conversations were private, often quite intimate and revealing, shaped by the notion of sharing secrets and influenced by the questions surrounding us.

Over time all the messages that I installed at the site will decay and dissolve back into the earth.

These were some of the messages that appeared at the site:
WAS SIEHST DU? [What do you see?]
WAS HAST DU ÃœBERSEHEN? [What have you overlooked?]
HÖRE ZU. [Listen.]
WAS HAT SICH VERÄNDERT? [What has changed?]
WAS KANNST DU NICHT SEHEN? [What is it that you cannot see?]
WIR BESTEHEN AUS LUFT UND WASSER. [We are made of air and water.]
WOHIN FLIESST DIESES WASSER? [Where does the water flow to?]
WOHER KOMMT DIESES WASSER? [Where did this water come from?]
DAS WASSER IST VOLLER GEHEIMNISSE. [The water is full of secrets.]
WER BIST DU JETZT? [Who are you now?]
WER WIRST DU WERDEN? [Who will you become?]
WAS WIRST DU HINTERLASSEN? [What will you leave behind?]
WIE WIRST DU IN ERINNERUNG BLEIBEN, WENN DU NICHT MEHR BIST? [When you are gone, how will you be remembered?]

 

Sit on the bench

beside the stream.

The longer you stay,

the more you will see.

There are hidden messages all around you.

Some have been there always.

Others are disappearing even as you turn to look.

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