It’s summer in SF. The city smells like piss, I’m spending more time than usual in my underwear and the kids with the carabineer key chains are well into their cross town fixie migrations, disappearing nightly into the surf where Pacific currents guide their steel frames and Deep V’s to secret breeding grounds somewhere on the far side of the Farallones. Really, it’s business as usual around these parts.
Except for Nick, who’s got things on his mind, things that would sour anyone’s warm weather plans. In no particular order, these things include: terrorist cells, ceaseless threats from the Russian Consulate and micro radio transmitters implanted in his prostrate. And then there’s the guys behind his woes: Michael, Oleg, Alexander, Alexey, Sergey O. and Sergey G., “Russian commie-criminals” intent on torturing Nick “16 hours a day, non-stop” with a brutal assault of “great stress on [his] nervous system, heart, brain and reproductive abilities,” all in retaliation against Nick’s self-professed anti-Soviet dissidence in the “1990th.”
Nick’s flybills have been spotted for the past two months up and down Geary Boulevard, often accompanied by a smaller explanatory flyer (not pictured due to the multiple phone numbers it lists) in which he offers the full names and ages of his tormentors, as well as his own contact information and a plea to the FCC to help him remove any and all radio transplants.
As excruciating as Nick’s paranoiac plight may be, I’m fascinated by the implicit contradictions his tactics raise. Here’s the Underground Man literally broadcasting his palpable fear and angst in block lettering on a 17” x 11” poster resembling any number of media promotions. It’s raw, loud and taunting in a way that inspires fear for Nick’s safety on the part of the viewer. Inadvertent as this effect may be, the work offers serious commentary on the inherent passivity of the observer and an embedded psychological content that’s a rare achievement within a constructed visual experience.
So enjoy your summer looky-loos, and as the burgers and brats spit over the coals, know that Nick is counting on you. . .