Show Must Go On

by Joshua Schenkel and Aurélie Mermod, ZHdK february 2010

The project «show must go on» simulates the death of a living person.
Early in the morning a memorial scene was set up with funeral candles, framed pictures, a collage of the deceased, a picture of his crashed car, personal letters, cards, children’s drawings and flowers near the Pestalozzi-Wiese at the Bahnhofstrasse. Only by playing with stereotypes and often seen mourning scenarios it was tried to convince people passing by even if the death is never mentioned explicitly.
The fake deceased was Carl Hirschmann: a rich, young, jetsetter and club owner from Zürich who’s questinable activities have been in the media in the past few months. This caused the public opinion of him to be quite low. The project plays with the feelings of compassion that death brings about, whether a person is hated, admired or unknown. It was important to choose a local person to make the inhabitants of Zürich feel closely connected to the death.
The project was intended to have a huge impact on a mass audience through its location (the most crowded street of Zürich), its celebrity victim and it’s theme of death and pity.
We planned to publish the ‘death’ online on daily newspapers by using iPhone applications. From this point the information should have spread by itself through word-of-mouth and social-networks. It could even have ended with a TV interview of Hischmann himself, who would have refuted his death.
Instead, the macabre installation was unfortunately cleaned up after a few hours.
It would’ve been interesting to know why this happened and how the clarification and cleaning process took its way. Was Hirschmann called? What was his reaction ? Although the strategy seemed to fail, 3 groups of people stopped by during the set-up of the installation and condoled with us, which proved, how credible the setup took effect and that the delicate theme of death manages to exclude all possibility of doubt even on this rather cheesy installation.
The installation was meant as a critique on how information spreads and how new systems of communication are developing in contemporary society. It’s not the work of independant journalists but of a fast system of communication where everyone can access and participate. Unfortunately the project was disrupted too quickly and it was difficult to analyse the planned outcomes of the hack.

Short clip of the final installation only:

Picture gallery of the preparation process:
http://gallery.me.com/joshuaschenkel/100026
Full presentation video for download (including breakup):
http://files.me.com/joshuaschenkel/4yaagk.mov

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