As You Wish

As You Wish (Project for KUNSTrePUBLIK's Angst hat grosse Augen, [Fear has Big Eyes] Angst in Form/Art in Public Space), 2010, four one-color, offset printed posters wheat paste glued in varying configurations throughout Halle, Germany, individual poster dimensions h 84.1 centimeters (33.1 inches) x w 59.4 centimeters (23.4 inches). Installation and installation images by Daniel Seiple, 2010

Poster #1 translation: 10,000 Marks Reward. Who is the murderer? Since Monday, 11th June this year, the following have disappeared: the school-children Klaus Klawitsky and his sister Klara, who live at 470 Müller Street. Various evidence leads us to believe that the children were victims of a similar crime to that committed last autumn against the Doering sisters.

Poster #2 translation: particularly serious case of theft, theft from kindergarten, theft from parking meter, unknown perpetrators broke violently into a gazebo, a tv was stolen and probably drinks, theft of potting soil, theft of camping furniture, chainsaws stolen, screwdriver stolen, wallet stolen, two trees, two peonies and several carnations plants stolen, two trees stolen, two peonies stolen, several carnations stolen, kitchen appliances stolen, unknown perpetrators stole a chopper and solar lamps, photographic technology stolen, car headlight stolen, drinks were stolen, drill stolen, a hair-cutting machine was stolen, garden equipment stolen, chain saws and cordless screwdrivers stolen, diesel drained, unknown perpetrators broke violently into a gazebo and a tool shed and stole a drill, a screwdriver, a saw, a brush cutter, five solar lights, a tent, a fountain pump, and a garden gnome, saw stolen, brush cutter stolen, five solar lights stolen, tent stolen, garden gnome stolen, fountain pump stolen, fish dead, mailbox destroyed, a gazebo on fire.

Poster #3 translation: Puzzle title: ...but the foreigner didn't want to commit crimes, use your welfare system, ask difficult questions, cause anxiety, bring disease, crowd your cities, be insensitive to cultural differences, steal your jobs, dilute ethnic purity, contaminate the homeland, murder Klaus Klawitsky, his sister Klara and the Doering sisters, or steal your plants and potting soil.
Please try to understand and fill in the blanks! Answer: On Tuesday a foreigner came to Germany from New York through Madrid and made posters about angst.

Poster #4 translation: Then I can't remember anything. And afterwards I see those posters and read what I've done. And read and read. Did I do that?

The following essay was written by Daniel Seiple in 2010 for the Angst hat grosse Augen exhibition catalog:

Upon looking at the art of Stephan Apicella Hitchcock, one walks into a contortion of time between real and fictional narratives in which the artist interweaves his own travels with the history and structure of films, art history, people, and places. In the last year alone he has tick tacked around the globe from New York to Cairo, Beirut, Tokyo, Madrid, Berlin, and Italy. At each location a work has been created, an image shot, or souvenir taken. I am a detective retracing his steps, picking up the static images in order to recompose time, and piling into his writings that were left behind as if by a criminal teasing his pursuers.

In June of this year a cryptic advertisement was distributed in Halle, Germany which became the impetus for my writing. A text on the top half is littered with blank spaces like a MadLib, and on the bottom half answers are provided: “Warning! Very soon a person will be coming to Germany/The Czech Republic from a foreign country through Madrid.” Months earlier, Hitchcock had submitted a proposal to KUNSTrePUBLIK to make a series of posters for the Angst exhibition that played upon fears caused by the welfare crisis, local unemployment, and the outsourcing of jobs. The advertisement continued: “Foreign _________ are often blamed for ________ during difficult economic times. (…) On that note does it help to ________ another _________ artist?” The blanks appear to lead to a personal reflection: When this foreigner, presumably Hitchcock himself, visits Halle for the first time, what angst will he find? Will he experience xenophobic suspicions at the shop that prints his posters? Is his proposal already complicated by his identity as a foreign worker, a tourist, or an imported artist? What business does he have trying to voice local concerns for a place he’s never been to, anyway?

Several years ago a series of photos surfaces that document every step from the pitcher’s mound to the dugout of the Encino Little League Baseball Field, in Encino California – where the character Stacy from the movie, Fast Times in Ridgemont High (1982), loses her virginity. In 2009, the photos are presented at a gallery in Berlin as the artwork of Stephan Apicella Hitchcock. Although the photographer never reveals himself in the photos, his presence is eerily felt as the viewer is invited to step into his shoes. Furthermore, the visitors are invited to take one of the photos home, until no more remain. Over the course of the opening the work transforms from unified to fragmented to gone. The evidence of Hitchcock’s walk to the dugout is now dispersed as a series of clues, creating an invisible line forever connecting those who took the photos.

Three years after the first appearance of the Encino photos, I watch a short film by Hitchcock, which focuses on the grave of moviemaker, Yasujiro Ozu, in Kita-Kamakura, Japan. The image jitters and colors undulate, betraying the construction as a contrived, not-so-singular moment. Fleetingly, the images do come together and perhaps the untrained eye might suspect faulty playback equipment or improperly exposed film. But upon traveling to Japan myself, I realize it would be next to impossible for crows, which are generally heard in autumn, to sing with cicadas that only chirp in summer – as it is recorded on the soundtrack. As I deconstruct the work, it becomes evident that Hitchcock shot the grave three times with each take filtered in a different primary color. In what becomes Nonsynchronous Five Times (2007-08), Hitchcock superimposes each sequence in order to create the impression of one singular, color take. As I ponder the potential reasons for this elaborate construction, I recall Ozu’s own methodical nature and use of a fixed camera.

And then, just as I have the feeling of coming closer to Hitchcock’s world, of which I only describe but a few artworks, a profile for the man appears on Facebook which announces the sale of all of the artist’s works that are “still in his possession, as well as the ownership rights to works that were generated, but destroyed.” The various lots reflect a prolific production. They are offered free of charge, first come first serve. At the conclusion of the auction, all descriptions, negotiations, transactions, correspondences as well as the artist’s friends are deleted leaving little evidence to substantiate any exchange (Part Tool, Part Trap, 2009) or artwork at all. Although I would imagine that with a little bit of digging, one could find evidence of the auction on the buyers’ profiles, or deep in Facebook’s servers. Everything leaves a trace.

In summer 2010 in Halle, four posters are spotted around town, conspicuously written in an old German script. The first is a poster of a poster, a screen grab of a film still from Fritz Lang’s dramatic thriller, M, when Hans Bekert (played by Peter Lorre), a murdering pedophile, steps into the frame and casts a shadow over a his own wanted poster. If the poster is by Hitchcock, it is a trademark move of setting his personal and artistic process within a cinematic narrative. Not quite an attempt of Wellsian (non)fictional drama, he dangles a bit of his own cultural research and presents a typographic parallel with the street signs in Halle.

The next poster to catch my eye is a crossword puzzle. I scribble it down in my notebook and take it to the coffee shop to decipher. The answers confirm my hunch and Hitchcock’s message in the advertisement: A foreigner has indeed arrived and made posters about Angst! On the poster next to this, a word search presents the local police blotter concurrent to the week that Hitchcock has visited Halle. In contrast to the serial murders by Bekert, the crimes in Halle portray a more or less blue-collar town with either desperate or juvenile criminals thieving items like potting soil and brush cutters as well as smashing mailboxes. But rather than finding the criminals, the poster sets up the game of finding the crimes, and with a spirit similar to Bekert’s letter announcing his deeds to the newspaper.

On the fourth poster, again in the old script, I read what appears to be a self-referential and cryptic admission. I follow up the first poster later that night by watching M. The movie is haunting, not just because of the convincing story, but because of the ease at which the populace is moved to mob rule after the wanted poster stirs up public angst, paranoia, and vigilantism. Beckert eludes the authorities, but is eventually captured and tried by the local mafia. In front of this kangaroo court, as a wide-eyed and crazed Beckert gives his impassioned plea to the criminals who will have his head, I hear the words written on that final poster: Then I can't remember anything. And afterwards I see those posters and read what I've done. And read and read. Did I do that?