Community project Case Study 1: Confessions

Part of my (as yet unwritten) project proposal is that I want to initiate a public participatory art project in Karachi and/or Jeddah as part of my interest in using art to capture narratives. And you know what they say, “everything that can be invented, has been invented” which, for me, translates into: all ideas stem from existing ideas. So what better way to brainstorm about my own community art project ideas than by examining past and current projects initiated by other artists?

Here’s case study no.1: Candy Chang’s project, “Confessions”.

Now this project is something I literally stumbled onto while surfing the internet and it’s simplicity and brilliance completely inspired me. For a month Candy Chang turned an art gallery into an interactive exhibit where people could walk into a confession booth, write down their confession on a square of wood and it would be hung on the wall. She also painted selected confessions in white onto giant red canvases.

The point of the project?

According to Chang’s website, “This project seeks to create a cathartic sanctuary for this temporary community and help us see we are not alone in our quirks, experiences, and struggles as we try to lead fulfilling lives.” –

It was giving people the chance to unburden their minds without fear of vulnerability. It was a chance to connect to a truth without fear of judgement. You could come across a confession and identify with that faceless, unknown person, knowing perhaps that you carry the same secret. It was a chance to be a piece in a large puzzle of truth.

Here are some of the pictures I found of her installation:


So what does it mean for me?

I am currently in the process ofplanning my first attempt at a narrative-focused community art project in Pakistan. As I work out the details of what I want to execute as part of my project, case studies like these come in handy to help me generate/organize ideas. When I read about the “confessions” project, I came to realize that exhibits and installations don’t have to be pictures. Words can encapsulate narrative art equally, or perhaps better even, than pictures. It has really got me thinking about this idea of words on a wall, or stories on a wall.

I also love this idea of anonymity. Do stories really need to have names attached to them in order to ring true? Do we tell more honest stories when we aren’t asked to name ourselves? Do we hesitate less to present our most imperfect self when our names are hidden from view?

Anyway, it seems like such a brilliant idea: build a narrative both specific (in a certain country or region) and general (the stories that come up are universal!) by involving people in the very process. What Candy Chang’s project culminated in was a piece of engaging narrative art, but the entire process of putting together that narrative was art in itself!

Even with this first case study, I see the pieces of my own project coming together!

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