Ever had one of those days when you’re trapped inside you own head? Today was one of those days. I had just paid a visit to my elderly father, where in his rapidly deteriorating state he’s allowed his house and his personal affairs to unravel into a typhoon of dirty dishes, unopened bills, and various haphazardly placed items strewn in odd places. Couple that with burnt out light bulbs and a relentless barrage of continuous calls from debt collectors equipped with an auto-dialer and it makes for a real downer.
However, sometimes all it takes to jolt you back into the moment is a song, a smell, or something to prompt a smile and remind you that everything will be ok. For me that epiphany took the form of a cheap xerox poster taped to a local telephone pole. “Fuck Hitler. Learn German.” Direct and provocative with a clear call to action; It’s a marketer’s dream.
While I have about as much interest in learning German as I did in sorting through a small mountain of someone else’s mail, this crude poster is effective. The artist makes excellent use of the Punk Visual Art aesthetic, which according to artist Mark Vallen, is “steeped in shock value and revered what was considered ugly…designed to disturb and disrupt the happy complacency of the wider society.” He clearly understands, as do we, that simply evoking the name Hitler elicits a strong reaction from people. On top of the message, you’ve got a ferocious werewolf, bearing a diamond encrusted grill and a frowning characture of Adolf so simple it couldn’t be anymore perfect. It made me stop and take notice. What impresses me most is fact that a guy named Paco is teaching German.
Somewhere in this city of abject cultural sensitivity and increasingly homogenized thought, there’s someone else who thinks that in spite of the horrific historical associations with the man, the exploitation of Hitler for shock value and humor is still funny.