As part of the team working on Whose Values, at first I was apprehensive about a project that asked visitors to disclose a fear, to show their families and friends and fellow visitors what clouds their mind on rainy days, and to share political stances they may not have disclosed to anyone.
My own fears went like this: Would anyone participate? Would the questions feel genuine? Would the responses be meaningful? Yes, yes, and yes.
The project is simple: Visitors are invited to fill out a tag with one of four questions and hang it on a communal wall. It is nothing but a delicate gesture of pencil, the tying of a card with string to a metal bar on a stone wall. But together, thousands of tags represent thousands of hopes and fears. They carry disgust with society, distrust of one another, fragile hope for the future, and sometimes unhappiness with oneself. Most of the responses are anonymous. A growing monster of vulnerabilities, these tags say “I am here. I feel this.”
I remembered back to when I mistakenly thought, Why would people share with us? What would they get by publicly putting themselves on the museum wall?
But every week I check the tag wall, I see the wires sagging from the weight of the words of thousands. My heart aches for some. My head nods in agreement with many. It’s a beautiful and moving thing to see the worn edges of the cards read by hundreds of others, by people from all parts of the world, and to see people sharing in a familiar feeling through the words of a stranger.
If you’ve shared with us, thank you. Your words may have touched someone you’ve never met. The wall is powerful.
Here are just a few of the voices that make up the tag wall at the Getty, and that have reached us by way of social media.
What do you value?
Justice for whom?
What do you fear?
What do you hope for?