The Apology Line: A Radical Project
In October of 1980, Bridge plastered thousands of handbills in the streets New York. "Attention criminals: You have wronged people. It is to people that you must apologizeNot the church, not the state. Get your misdeeds of your chest. Call apology. When you call you will be alone with a tape recorder."
They did call. For the next decade and a half, serial killers, battered wives, rapists, thieves, men with a new disease called AIDS, shop lifters, drug addicts, soldiers grappling with their actions in Viet Nam, racists, homophobes, Katherine Hepburn impersonators, animal lovers, queers, messengers of God, hate criminals, war criminals, and many others poured their confessions and declarations into Allan’s downtown loft apartment. Bridge began to play selected material back on his outgoing message.
People began to respond to each other, and the Apology Line community was born. Bridge achieved a breakthrough use of modern technology, constructing one of the first online communities. Before American Online was born, before William Gibson jacked us into his matrix, Mr. Apology, as he was known on the line, created the Apology community out of twisted copper pair.
Eventually he expanded the project to include a series of zines that featured his favorite calls illustrated with New York outsider art. He also expanded the reach of the line itself, adding another two phone numbers where people could call. By the end of the project, all three answering machines were collecting calls around the clock so that, between the Zines and the phone lines, Bridge was drowning in apologies and barely able to attend to anything else in his world.
When Bridge died in a diving accident in 1995, the line came to it’s end. Without the heart and energy of Mr. Apology that had been its center for fifteen years the Apology Line rapidly wound down. Bridge’s wife Marissa, with the help of some of the lines central figures, created a final Zine, in memorium, that was published in January of 1996.
"The purpose of apology is to provide a way for criminals and wrongdoers to apologize for their misdeeds in the hope that this will help them turn over a new leaf. At the end of this program you may record any statement you care to make.”
-- Allan Bridge