- Michael Kirby Smith/New York Times
- The anonymous artist putting up a poster on the Williamsburg Bridge
In 1980, the artist Allan Bridge started posting fliers in Tribeca advertising the ability to “get your misdeeds off your chest!” by calling a telephone answering service he had set up. By 1995, when he died in an accident, he had received half a million calls, the Times reports: “apologies, confessions, delusions, truths, half-truths and everything in between.” He shared the calls in a quarterly magazine and also produced weekly tapes of the best ones. It was a minor phenomenon across the country, but it died when Bridge did.
Except now a Brooklyn-based artist has revived the project, advertising on posters across the city and on Craigslist, having set up a voicemail system using Google Voice. About 200 people have called in since the 38-year-old artist set it up earlier this year. (He wishes to remain anonymous because he finds the legality of the project murky. “It is unclear what his liability might be if someone confessed a crime, for example,” the Times reports.)
The original line received trivial calls but also dark ones; it was a service to which “people confessed… everything form murders and mutilations to sexual affairs and drug dependencies.” But it’s being revived in a very different city, in which the the murder and general crime rates have plummeted compared to the 80s and 90s, and many of the grimiest areas of New York have been sanitized. Are there enough murders or mutilations left to confess to? So far, people have admitted to things like petty shoplifting and inappropriate touching. Not to downplay such crimes (particularly the latter), but how much worse can it get, not counting any outlying horrors? How much darker does Bloomberg’s New York get? Maybe people could call up to apologize for displacing less affluent residents from their long-term communities.
Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart