in conversation with
It was in the mid-1990s — nearly two decades before being introduced to Sensitive Skin publisher and editor-in-chief, Bernard Meisler — that I first encountered Sensitive Skin’s unique and eclectic brand of underground art and writing. Discursive, post-realist, transgressive writing. A who’s who of Blank Generation writers. Definitive “Downtown” writers. Writers and artists witnessing the commodification of late twentieth century literature, and the gentrification/Disneyfication of New York. It’s a distinct pleasure to interview Bernard Meisler concerning the history of Sensitive Skin, and how he sees Sensitive Skin as it embraces the future. Urban Graffiti is pleased to present, “Bernard Meisler — in conversation with Mark McCawley”, another in an ongoing series of evocative, probing conversations with contemporary experimental and transgressive writers, artists, and publishers. ~ Editor
MM: After a sixteen-year hiatus what was the impetus to re-launch Sensitive Skin as an online magazine on June 18, 2010, as well as the subsequent hard copy issues?
BM: You know, I’d never stopped thinking about the magazine. I wanted to switch it from print to online way back when, in the mid ‘90s. And I regret not doing that, as we’d be super established by now (instead of, I guess, somewhat established). But I stopped doing the print version for a number of reasons, mostly because it was a victim of its own success, if that makes any sense. See, the first few issues, we just had to put a few hundred bucks together, we’d do a benefit show, or one of my better-off friends would just write us a check for $200 or whatever, and off we’d go. By the time the final issue came out, we were getting national distribution with a circulation of 2000 or so, not bad for a little magazine. And it got more and more expensive to put out, and took up more and more time, and, now that we had national distribution, well, we got back almost nothing for sales! So it all became a bit much, I’d just gotten married and had a kid, and I had other things on my mind, so I let it go, which was actually a big relief at the time. Cause as I’m sure you know, it’s tough putting together a magazine like this – not only is there a TON of work to do for layout, typography, art and graphic design, but you’re on a deadline of some sort and you’re trying to manage, what, 30-50 artists and writers? Some of whom are good friends, most of whom are great people, but there’s always a percentage who are self-centered insane egoists. All in all, it’s herding cats. But even after I let it go, I still I thought about it from time to time, as I was doing web development for a living and I thought I could do something really cool with multimedia. We actually had a GREAT final issue, that’s never seen the light of day, as it was in color and we could never come up with the dough to print it. Maybe I’ll still put it out someday – it had pieces by Lynne Tillman, John Shirley, Maggie Estep, Luc Sante – we’ll see. Read more