A Slice of Fried Gold

PostSecret Live!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Frank Warren doing what he does best: reading secrets on postcards

This past Thursday, Frank Warren visited Anchorage's Wendy Williamson Auditorium for a lecture. Warren is the creator of the blog/movement PostSecret which began as a Washington, DC based art project and turned into a site that generates millions of hits and a movement that is a bastion of hope for many a person. Needless to say, it seemed like something that would be interesting, so Hannah, Amy, and I attended to find out what exactly a postcard collector with a mission statement could offer the Great White North.

The answer was definitely a varied one, and not what I expected in any way shape or form.

Warren himself was a very charming (if not occasionally cheesy) public speaker who, as Amy pointed out afterwards, clearly has done this a time or two and does not offer a lot of room for his lecture to breathe. It was a very rigidly planned event if not for the ending, as he took us through three sections of his presentation: the history of PostSecret, the postcards his lawyers dared not let him share!, and PostSecret: Live!

The first two sections were interesting and quite often very humorous, and they really allowed Warren to share what exactly his program has grown into and what it is all about at this point. The ultimate purpose of his site is to act as somewhere people can share their secrets with the world without really having to pull back the curtain, as he theorized that there are two things that really drive people down a bad path: the secrets they keep from others and the secrets they keep from themselves. Secrets bring people down, they keep them from achieving all they should be able to, and they are tremendously hurtful if kept inside always.

I had never really thought about it, but he's right for the most part. While he did tend to fall into the trap that his father accused him of, that of taking a selfless thing and turning it into a mildly self aggrandizing event (mostly by tending to turning people's live secrets into opportunities to tell one of his stories or to sell a book), the concept and therapeutic value of what he offers is really there I do believe.

The true highlight of the event was the PostSecret Live! section, where people would actually get up to a microphone and share a closely guarded secret with an auditorium full of hundreds of people. Some ranged from humorous anecdotes to truly intense and highly emotional secrets (some very brave people attended this event), but seemingly every person who shared with the world left the microphone with a level of closure or a modicum of new found relief. Not only that, but it created a community feel in the audience, as everyone began responding to each others statements and encouraging each other in ways you do not normally see in modern society.

Ironically, that part, the clear cut best and most interesting part, also led into what I liked the least about it. PostSecret is, for all intents and purposes, a modern revisionist religion. As Amy pointed out, you have the priest tending to his flock, you have the cleansing, you have the central tenets of belief, you have...a religion. I guess it isn't a bad thing, but I just never expected it and found it a bit off putting that the world so desperately needs to believe in something that they pin hope on a blog about sharing secrets on artistic postcards.

Not that there is anything wrong with it.

Ultimately though, I truly believe Warren and his flock have their heart in the right place, and I got what I came for: a little entertainment, a little insight, and a little bit of interesting in the doldrums of Alaskan winter. It was a win win situation for everyone, and I really do recommend coming to see Warren speak if he's in your area. At the very least it's an entertaining and interesting lecture for all to share. You may even have the chance to share in a truly unifying community event for once.


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