Stephan Apicella-Hitchcock – As you wish

ANGST IN FORM, 2010 – Hitchcock plays on the potential of language to generate fear and also on its potential to be misused as a means of surveillance. A series of posters will appear in a wide variety of locations in Halle and the surrounding area.

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 over 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, 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, anyway?

Then a few months later, 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 Beckert (played by Peter Lorre), a murdering pedophile, steps into the frame, casting a shadow over 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 visits Halle, hidden in a field of letters. In contrast to the serial murders by Beckert, the crimes in Halle portray a more or less blue-collar town with either desperate or juvenile criminals thieving things like potting soil, brush cutters and smashing mailboxes. But rather than finding the criminals, the poster sets up the game of finding the crimes, and like Bekert’s letter announcing his deeds to the newspaper, with a spirit similar to a serial killer.

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 haunting movie is scary, 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 Hitchcock’s 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?”

(text: Daniel Seiple)

Stephan Apicella-Hitchcock

Stephan Apicella-Hitchcock was born in New York City, received a BA from Hampshire College in 1991 and an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1996. His projects range across the mediums of film, photography, sculpture, in addition to curatorial projects; regardless, the works reflect a strong interest in history. He was resident artist in the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s WorldViews studio residency program at the World Trade Center and the Shatana International Artist’s residency, Jordan. He taught at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts, Rhode Island School of Design, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the School of Visual Arts, and Parsons The New School For Design. Currently he teaches at Fordham University in New York City and at Pratt Institute’s School of Art and Design in Brooklyn, New York. Exhibitions have been held over the past three years in The Kingdom of Bahrain, Germany, Japan, Jordan, Spain, Switzerland and Syria.