postcards in a drawer beore retiring. As heslept, he dreamed that the three postcardshad been altered. “The rst message read,‘unrecognized evidence, rom orgottenjourneys, unknowingly rediscovered,’” writesWarren on his PostSecret Community blog.“[T]he second message was about a ‘reluctantoracle’ postcard art project, and the last Icould not understand at the time.”When he awakened, he immediatelymanipulated the postcards in the drawer toresemble his vision. “What I did not knowwas that those three remade postcardswould . . . set me on an unimaginable journey,”he says.It was just the escape he needed. Warren,an Illinois native who holds a degree in socialscience rom the University o Caliornia,Berkeley, had moved to the Washington, D.C.,area ater graduation. There he’d begun abusiness called Instant Inormation Systems—yet it was passionless work. “It was a tedious,monotonous job, but that’s what inspired thesecreative projects,” Warren explains. “There’sa great deal o value in a boring job becauseit makes you want to work harder and ndsomething to make you happy—somethingthat matters more.”The heady combination o careerdissatisaction and a prophetic dream ignitedsomething in Warren. He adopted a kindo creative superhero persona, embodyingthe unassuming career man by day and theenigmatic alter ego by night. He was realizingthe second stage o his vision.Warren certainly thrived as a sel-appointed oracle, although he threw himselinto the project so wholeheartedly that his“reluctance” is debatable. Adopting a secretpersona he called “Hobby Horse,” he spentthe summer o 2004 crating several bottledmessages to be set adrit in Clopper Lake inMaryland’s Seneca State Park. The bottles,clear glass and the size o wine bottles,contained photographed hands on postcardsthat hung suspended rom the corks. Thesepostcards were stamped, and incorporatedcryptic messages on the back such as “Yourquestion holds more than its answer.”The story o the mysterious HobbyHorse and his bottles garnered widespreadattention.
The Washington Post
comparedthe postcards to “ortune cookies rom thedark.” In its investigation o the anonymousartistic litterings, the
consulted KerryMcAleer-Keeler, a printmaking instructor atthe Corcoran College o Art and Design, who
suggested that it could be “a joke to the artistthat everyone is struggling to gure it out.”To Warren, perhaps it was a bit o a game.“Deciding what would go into each bottle waslike designing a scene,” “Hobby Horse” toldthe
. “What evidence to expose? Whatto hide? How to show clues with ambiguousmeanings? How to display an airtight hal-toldtale? . . . Allowing the pieces to be discoveredcreated more possibilities . . . The nder canview me as provocateur or polluter; artist orcriminal.”By September, Warren was ready tobegin phase three o his prophetic dream. The“reluctant oracle” delivered a nal message-in-a-bottle: “You will nd your answers in thesecrets o strangers.”That next Sunday, the PostSecretmovement began.
Not in Kansas Anymore
Warren’s dream-inspired relationshipwith the postcard and newound passionor public involvement with his art were thecornerstones on which he built his EmeraldCity. Armed with 3,000 sel-addressedpostcards, Warren appealed to the citizenso D.C., asking them to be part o a newendeavor: write an anonymous secret on theback o a postcard and mail it to him.“You are invited to anonymouslycontribute a secret to a group art project,” theotherwise-blank cards read. “Your secret canbe a regret, ear, betrayal, desire, conession,or childhood humiliation. Reveal
—aslong as it is true and you have never shared itwith anyone beore. Be brie. Be legible. Becreative.”“I knew that i I could nd a way to allowstrangers to trust me with these secrets, itwould be special or me,” says Warren.About a hundred postcards ound theirway to his mailbox, enough or an exhibit at amonthlong D.C. art estival, or which Warrensuspended the secrets rom the ceiling withwire. The event was well received, andWarren assumed the project had ended. Butnew postcards kept coming, now handmadeand rom distant states and countries.Warren took this as a sign o biggerthings. “PostSecret started as a lark, maybeeven a prank,” he says. “But the secrets havetaken on more gravity and more meaningas time’s gone on.” Once it became clearthat the movement had gone viral, Warrenestablished a blog to display some o thesecrets. He managed the secrets as he hadCourtesy: HarperCollins