Psychotherapy for Adults
Couples & Marital Therapy

Articles > Project to Show Video Confessions

Project to show video confessions
at TTC subway stations

People are confessing their inner secrets, not to a priest, a therapist or even a best friend — but to more than a million subway riders.

June 22, 2012
Nancy J. White

People are confessing their inner secrets, not to a priest, a therapist or even a best friend — but to more than a million subway riders.

"When I was 16, I gave up my child for adoption," blurts one woman.

"I'm still obsessed with an ex-boyfriend, and I'm engaged to be married," reveals another.

Happiness Goes Global: Dean Rohrer Newsart illustration Oct. 2, 2011 Video confessions at TTC subway stations

"Dad, when I hit that tree with your car," admits one, "I was getting something out of my teeth in the mirror."

These are videotaped confessions which will be shown — faces but no names — every 10 minutes on 300 TTC platform screens in more than 60 stations from July 2nd to July 15th.

"This is art as experiment," says John Loerchner, a co-director of Labspace Studio. "We are quite surprised at how open people are and how much they want to get things off their chests."

So far about 100 brave people spilled their secrets via online submission at or in the movable confession booth equipped with a video camera. Loerchner and co-director Laura Mendes have schlepped the wooden confessional to several Toronto neighbourhoods and to Chicago, Montreal and Buffalo, to delve the dark depths of guilt for this subway art project.

But Loerchner isn't just fascinated by what the penitents say. "After they stop talking, it's their facial expressions — you see their reaction to what they just said."

Some confessions are humorous. One man admitted that he sometimes intentionally runs into people who are talking on their phones on the street because he knows they'll apologize to him.

Other secrets have eaten away at people for decades. One elderly gentleman admitted that as a youth he stole his father's nude Marilyn Monroe calendar. "He said, 'Dad, I'm sorry,' and was full of dramatic pauses as he spoke from his heart," explains Loerchner. "He couldn't say it to his father anymore but needed a way to get it out."

Only one was borderline criminal.

If anyone understands confession, it's a Catholic priest. Father Michael Busch, rector of St. Michael's Cathedral, has been hearing people's sins for 21 years.

"Humans are social beings and when we hide things it affects how we interact," explains Busch. "Confession makes you feel freer. It gives you a second or third chance."

He likes the Confessions Underground project. "I hope people's weights are lifted." Whether they actually feel forgiven is another matter, he says. "There's still the question, 'Am I a good person or not?' You need someone to answer."

A million subway travellers will be the judge of that.

"In private therapy, a person can feel witnessed and accepted. It's different to unburden yourself in public disclosure," says clinical psychologist Sarah Maddocks. "The TTC riders will be the Greek chorus witnessing the telling."

But some chorus members may relate to some of the stories and pass them on, perhaps unburdening their own secrets.

"It's a wonderful thing about art, the way it can touch the emotional core," says Maddocks.

Read the rest of this article at The Toronto Star.

"Project to show video confessions at TTC subway stations" first appeared in the Toronto Star on June 22, 2012.