Some of the people around me in line came to Green-Wood knowing exactly what they wanted to tell Calle, who has promised to keep the secrets divulged to her. Other visitors are still racking their brains, discussing their options. One wonders which kind of secret she should tell: a light one or a dark one? “Which will feel better to acknowledge?” Another muses if he even has anything to divulge: “I’m a very open person.” Someone nearby: “Then why are you here?” He replies: “To figure out whether or not I have a secret.”
I finally sit down in the empty chair across from Calle, who looks me directly in the eye and waits for me to begin. She records the details of my story in looping cursive on a page in her notebook. My secret is a bit long-winded, and Calle asks thoughtful questions, wanting to make sure that she gets it right.
Throughout, I’m reminded of a somewhat similar performance by a another larger-than-life artist. In 2010,
visitors, one by one, to gaze silently into her eyes. Her intention for the performance was to probe the relationship between artist and audience. No words were exchanged, but some visitors were famously moved to tears
I didn’t personally sit with Abramović during “The Artist Is Present,” but I did watch others participate. They perched rigidly in the quiet white-cube gallery, a table between them and the performance artist. The scenario at Green-Wood, with grass and graves at our feet, was decidedly more intimate than Abramovic’s highly orchestrated, silent blockbuster, which seems sterile in comparison.