The story of BOMB begins about a year before the publication of its first issue in the spring of 1981. The visual artists, filmmakers, and writers who were living in downtown Manhattan at the time discussed its conception for that long—at dinner parties, on street corners, at bars and clubs, and over the phone . . . A look at the first issue gives you an ample cross section of who was talking: Sarah Charlesworth, Kathy Acker, Duncan Hannah, Michael McClard, Tina L’ Hotsky, Craig Gholson, Michael Oblowitz, Anthony McCall and Jane Weinstock, Duncan Smith, Terrance Sellers, Eric Mitchell, Glenn O’Brien, Gary Indiana, Liza Bear, David Walter McDermott III , Cookie Mueller, Lynne Tillman, Joan Jonas, Becky Johnston, Jimmy DeSana, Amos Poe, Carl Apfelschnitt, Mark Magill, and myself—visual artists, filmmakers, fiction writers, and playwrights.
I was acting and directing with the ensemble theater group Nightshift, and as with all ensembles, each participant’s contributions in rehearsal were organically incorporated into the final production. So, at many of these various dinner parties, I kept saying, Wouldn’t it be great if we had a magazine where we talked about the work the way we talk about it among ourselves? And everyone inevitably responded, Yes! Because within any collaborative arrangement—whether it be dance, theater, performance, or site-specific sculpture—you talk about a work of art’s evolution. What you’re thinking, what you’re open to, what historical works are at play—that’s a natural part of the day’s conversations. As in any rehearsal period, things evolve in a way that perhaps you’d never imagined. That sort of conversation—one like the creative process itself, where the participants eventually come to something that they recognize as revelatory—was the concept we all wanted to catch in BOMB.
BOMB has come a long way in 30 years, and we’re making plans for the next 30. But our mandate remains the same: to deliver the artist’s voice. However, now we do it over multiple platforms: in the magazine itself; on the web at BOMBsite.com, where our Digital Archive will soon expand to include a comprehensive library of all content ever published in BOMB; and in our newest incarnation, BOMBlog, where young practitioners—emerging artists and writers—create their own version of BOMB, this time with new media.
By making artists the interpreters of their own practice, BOMB has changed the nature of cultural discourse, humanizing intellectual ideas, and giving context to their origins. Beginning this year, we will be applying what we’ve learned to Oral Histories, expanding the parameters of how an artist’s tale can be shaped. In addition, we’ll also be launching our iPad application this year, as well as our pilot e-book initiative. It’s an exciting time, because while we’re grounded by our three-decade-long history, we’re taking off into the brave, open-source world of digital publishing, increasing our reach like never before. Stay tuned for the generations to come.
—Betsy Sussler, Co-Founder and Editor in Chief