”Hi,” a woman’s voice murmurs softly on the other line. She laughs nervously. “This is crazy!” She pauses, takes a deep breath. “Okay, so,” she begins, and makes a confession. “I wish you could give me some advice!” she says at one point. Muted on the other line, I can do nothing but wait until she’s finished speaking and hang up silently.
“Confession” is a project by Brooklyn-based Gideon Jacobs and Gregor Hochmuth that invites you to confess your sins, desires, or whatever else to an anonymous stranger on the other line. Simply call the listed phone number, and press 1 to confess, or 2 to listen. Part Catholic confessional, part Miranda July experiment, the social artwork explores the power of anonymity to initiate a strange intimacy.
“Greg and I concluded that there were basically two key ingredients to a good confession,” Jacobs wrote in an email to The Huffington Post. “Firstly, a feeling of relative anonymity, and also, the knowledge that someone is listening... The idea here was for confessors to feel safe from judgement, but also feel that there is still something at stake.”
Since Jacobs and Hochmuth launched the project in early July, they’ve received thousands of admissions from all over the country. “It’s kind of amazing ― almost all these calls go the same way,” Jacobs continued. “The confessor sort of tests the waters, making themselves a little bit vulnerable or dropping hints of their true confession, and then, once they hear no judgement but also know that the listener has not abandoned them, they are suddenly empowered to truly unburden themselves.”
All confessions are anonymously recorded and saved. Although he’s yet to determine what exactly will become of this archive of divulgences, Jacobs explained that if the calls are ever made public, he’d distort callers’ voices beforehand to protect the anonymity of the callers.
The admissions themselves range from weighty to delightfully banal, from unexpected pregnancies to unhealthy crushes. “We’ve gotten a lot of very interesting confessions ― i.e. being aroused by bestiality, or cheating on a spouse,” Jacobs said. “One of my favorites was from a young woman who was desperately trying to articulate the fact that she felt absolutely no connection to her parents.”
Whether you wish to play the role of guilty conscience or divine listener, “Confession” offers the chance to communicate your deepest, darkest parts one on one, without consequence.
The uncanny experience operates in the strange terrain where technology and religion intersect. For Jacobs, both represent human attempts to grasp the unknowable and better ourselves. “This might sound a bit overwrought, or possibly like some thesis of a stoned liberal arts undergrad, but I think technology and religion are both manifestations of our collective attempt to cope with the human condition,” he said. “We turn to them for help, relief and answers. Google and the Vatican have more in common than you’d think!”
Intrigued? Guilty? Lonely? Bored? Call (917)809-7319 and cleanse your naughty soul in the most artsy way possible.