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Offspring at Olympic Sculpture Park

Ceci N'est Pas Une Swing Set @ OSP

Portable Confessional Units

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PDL PCU dotted line

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The Portable Confessional Unit (PCU) began with the simple premise that self-expression is the foundation of all art and that to repress that expression was unhealthy for culture and toxic to the individual. Ultimately, it had as much to do with us confessing our own secrets as it did with encouraging others to do so. There was a lot to purge and we recognized the confessional booth as a great vehicle to do it.

PDL isn’t a religious bunch, but we know a good idea when we see one. Making our own confessional wasn’t a disrespect to Catholicism; it was liberating a practice that we thought everyone could benefit from. It wasn’t about sin and repentance and forgiveness, not about heaven and hell and all of that. Our confessional booths were Honey Buckets — Sani-Cans for all of the thoughts you collect and but just don’t have a place to put them.

Jason built the first prototype out of a couple of bedsheets and plywood. He set it up in a corner of the Hideout and hung a sign. It looked straight out of the Little Rascals. But as comical as it appeared, what happened inside was quite serious. We spilled our guts and the audience spilled theirs right back. And amazing as it may sound, when you emerged, it felt like leaving behind a big steaming pile of repressed thought.

Soon enough, we were building three fancy versions of the Portable Confessional Units (PCUs) for the 2007 Bumbershoot Festival. We refined the aesthetic, put some serious energy into their construction, and even made an infomercial showing how the device worked and how great an addition it would make on college campuses and in corporate lobbies. We invented terms like Toxic Thought Syndrome (TTS) and Conversational Deprivation Disorder (CDD). But behind all of the humor and in absence of a religious context, we were quite serious about these simple wood-constructed boxes, and we listened with great sincerity.

On August 31, 2007, we set up our three PCUs, loaded them up with water, snacks and flashlights, and crawled inside. For four days we sat in the dark confines of our units, emerging only for trips to the bathroom and short breaks to stretch our legs. We talked to hundreds and hundreds of people, from teenagers with serious issues to parents and grandparents with honest and profound problems. People who needed someone to talk to, someone to listen to them and offer comments. We made no claims of being trained professionals or holding licenses or degrees to consult, but what we learned is that sometimes people need someone anonymous to talk to, that sometimes people need a place to talk without consequence.

We encourage you to make your own confessional booth. All you need are a couple of sheets of plywood and a bed sheet. You will be surprised how powerful a device it can be.



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