The Apology Line
By Maria Popova
In 1980, conceptual artist Allan Bridge began his Apology Line project — a telephone hotline, where anonymous callers could unburden themselves from their guilty confessions on an answering machine. Two decades before PostSecret and a quarter century before We Feel Fine, the project pioneered crowdsourced layman voyeurism and went on to collect hundreds of daily confessions for over fifteen years. It was featured in the most groundbreaking cultural commentaries of the day, from an article in then-toddler Wired to an early episode of This American Life.
Though Bridge’s original tape anthology, The Apology Line: Uncut Gems From Year Zero (1980-1981), is long lost in the analog ether, after a few hours of relentless poking around the intertubes, we were able to uncover the only surviving digitized recording of the project, which you can download for your listening pleasure. Uncomfortably honest, sometimes funny and often shocking, these anonymous confessions offer a raw slice of human complexity, with all its tortured tribulations and daily dramas.
But something much richer than a digital recording is taking the project’s legacy into the present era.
In 2007, UK filmmaker duo James Lee and William Bridges revived The Apology Line, launching it across the UK and inviting Britons via posters, flyers and newspaper articles to call the anonymous line and unload whatever is weighing them down. They then made a short documentary about it, which went on to grain critical acclaim across the film festival circuit, showing at Sundance and Cannes in 2008 and being awarded at the Prix UIP Best European Short Film at the Cork International Film Festival.
Now, the team behind The Apology Line is using Kickstarter (which we so love) to bring the project to the US. Their goal is to collect confessions from Americans all over the country, eventually unleashing an art exhibition beginning in New York and traveling all over America.
You can pledge anything from $5 to $100 and help create an avenue where we can safely scratch the itch of guilt for lunching on someone else’s sandwich in the office fridge and telling grandma you’re abstaining until marriage. In exchange, you’ll get a varying magnitude of voyeurism fixes with randomly selected apologies from stranger.
Go ahead, microfund the apologetic exorcism of guilt. You won’t be sorry.
Published March 17, 2010