Artist Takes Strangers' Tattooed Secrets to His Grave

Most of the secrets inked onto Andrew Henderson's body weren't even his own
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 28, 2016 12:44 PM CDT
Artist Gets Strangers' Secrets Inked, Takes Them to His Grave
Andrew Henderson (not shown here) took lots of secrets to the grave—many of them not his own.   (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Andrew Henderson knew he didn't have long to live due to his lymphoblastic lymphoma, which doctors told him was incurable. And so he held a "living funeral" last weekend, per the CBC, and the "Taking It to the Grave" event was a testament to the "ebullient performance-art lover," as the Toronto Star puts it. What made the pre-death memorial service for the Manitoba native especially unique: Henderson listened to complete strangers spill their deepest secrets, then had those secrets tattooed onto his body in the form of specially designated symbols. Henderson died Wednesday at the age of 28, just a few days after he was inked up with everyone's revelations. Per the Star, the show was to include a giant champagne bottle for Henderson to sit in, as well as a manicure bar and "cuddle spaces" so that visitors could "rest in peace."

But the draw of the combination macabre/motivational happening was the ability to whisper one's secrets to Henderson, who then had a Toronto tattoo artist translate those secrets to symbols on his skin. A friend says Henderson had been studying up on death rituals and says she was glad to be able to help him use his performance art to prepare for the end of his life. "I've never personally seen someone engage with their own mortality in this way," Henderson's production manager adds. And all of those secrets (Henderson had planned to allow up to 100 of them on his body) now that he's gone? "I'm going to die, and my body's going to rot, and that's where those secrets will lie," he told the Metro earlier this month. (The reverse of a living funeral: posing the deceased like they're still living.)

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