PostSecret is an ongoing Internet-based art project which invites people to send in creative postcards of their deepest secrets, updated every Sunday with a new collection of postcards replacing the postcards from the previous week. In less than a year, PostSecret achieved notoriety on the Internet, and also via newspapers, Internet blog1 awards and even the music industry2.
The project originally started in November 2004; the man behind the idea, Frank Warren, gave out 3,000 blank postcards in Washington. Once they had been sent back to his home address in Germantown, Maryland, USA he selected the best of the bunch and displayed them, enlarged, as a touring art exhibition. However, the popularity of the idea and the resulting exhibition meant that Frank Warren didn't receive 3,000 postcards - in less than 18 months he had received 30,000 cards, ten times the original amount, from many countries and in many different languages, even braille. The title of the exhibition, 'PostSecret', is multi-faceted: not only does it refer to the secrets being posted using the postal service, but when it is published the secret is no more, making it a post-secret in terms of lapsed time.
After the original exhibition proved so popular, Warren became inundated with secrets and so on 1 January, 2005 opened the PostSecret blogspot. Every Sunday the previous week's postcards are taken down and new ones are posted; occasionally emails will appear throughout the week, in relation to the card above. These emails often show support or understanding in relation to the secret and sometimes delve into a story relating to a similar experience. After the postcards there are several sections relating to news stories connected with the project that change from time to time. Finally there is the address which you should post the secrets to and instructions on what to do. The Website ends with a phone number for Hopeline, a helpline along with a picture of one woman who sent in her picture and wanted her face to be recognised as being saved by Frank Warren. She claims after seeing his work and phoning the helpline, she changed her decision to attempt suicide - her message has been there since March 2006.
You are invited to anonymously contribute a secret to a group art project. Your secret can be a regret, fear, betrayal, desire, confession or childhood humiliation. Be brief. Be legible. Be creative.Since Warren no longer gives out the blank postcards, instructions are given on the website. The rules are thus:
- The instructions attached to Warren's 3,000 blank cards.
- Reveal, anonymously, a secret as long as it is true and you have never told anybody.
- Create four inch by six inch postcards out of any malleable material and only use one side of the card. Multiple secrets require multiple postcards.
- Be brief - the fewer words the better.
- Be legible - use big, clear and bold lettering.
- Be creative - let the postcard be your canvas.
The responses gathered during the time that the exhibition and website have existed have been varied. Mostly they are emotional and occasionally they are shocking secrets of trauma and abuse but occasionally there are funny posts, although it is usually somewhat black humour - for example, a person emailed an admission that every time they catch a cold, they lick all the cutlery in the work cafeteria before lunch. The postcards are presented in a multitude of ways: drawings, magazine cuttings, collages, photographs and more are used with writing presented in an equal amount of ways. Mostly people use pictures and a writing form that mirrors their secret, but sometimes there is no relation.
Confessions range over many subjects and they are revealed sometimes in clear statements, sometimes in two parts. Many of them are humorous, but still questionable such as 'I can't stop stealing things... like this postcard', but others are much more serious like 'my first orgasm was when I was nine... from my brother... and I still feel guilty at 37' and some of them are highly trivial for example 'When no-one is looking I pick my nose... and eat it.'
On 1 December, 2005, 11 months after the opening of the blog, selected postcards, including many not seen previously on the website, were published in PostSecret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives by Harper Collins/Reagan Books. It features the postcards enlarged to one page, occasionally two, for all of its 288 pages. Sales of the book helped Warren donate a sum of money to the Hopeline helpline which he vehemently supports on his website, saying that, from personal experiences of depression, he finds them helpful. The band All-American Rejects also made a donation because they used the format in their music video. Another book is set to be released in October 2006 - in the same format but with entirely new secrets.
Warren has also teamed up with Focus Magazine to present live performances made up of a film short of PostSecret, a discussion and book signing as well as new music.
Secrets can be posted to the following address:
13345 Copper Ridge Rd