SECULAR CONFESSSION BOOTH, by Todd Julie (left) and Jesse Ewles, at the Heliconian Club, 35 Hazelton
For those of us with Catholic envy, the Secular Confession Booth brings us the priest-free experience of unburdening our conscience to a shadowy figure in a box. Perfect for the dark, tormented hours of the night.
How did you come to be working together on an installation?
Todd Julie : Last year we went to Nuit Blanche from 7 pm to 7 am. We had no idea it was even possible for Toronto to put on something so awesome. We decided that night we had to be involved this year.
Jesse Ewles : Yeah, it was like a union rally for the arts. We were like, "Right, where do we sign up?"
How did last year's experience influence your idea for this year's event?
TJ : Some of the greatest things last year were done by people who weren't officially part of the event but just out on the street doing their own thing. One dude hid in a burlap sack and improvised songs at the audience's suggestion. We asked for one about Batman and he went on for three minutes -- awesome!
JE : You can expect 10 times that kind of impromptu art this year. It's like that Velvet Underground record - they say everyone who bought it started their own band.
TJ : From the beginning, we wanted to get away from our regular disciplines of painting and video and do something that'd allow the audience a role in defining the project.
With the confession booth, we've set the stage, but the players are the people coming in off the street. What they choose to confess and how they decide to act will define the project.
What can we expect when we make our confession?
TJ : The city got us a great space. The Heliconian Club is a converted church, a long, narrow room with pews lining the walls and a stage where the booth will be.
We won't be inside the booth. We've chosen volunteers specifically for the task; some have help line experience. They won't be giving advice -- the listening is the important thing.
You can vent bottled-up thoughts, you can't talk about family or friends. We want to provide a cathartic experience that allows you to move on. The booth will be out of earshot of anyone except the confessor and the listener, who'll only be visible as a shadow. Everyone's secret is totally safe.
JE : It's a service that the Church has had a monopoly on forever. It could inspire a secular franchise that offers the comforting aspects of church without the theism, a clubhouse for grown-ups to drink wine and talk about building windmills and community gardens and shit.
Maybe the United Church is like that already. I'll have to ask Cheri DiNovo next time I see her.