Homage To A Man’s Faux Life
Iris Haussler, the project's senior archivist, explained gravely that little was known of [Joseph Wagenbach]'s life before he came here, in 1967. They determined he had lived in Germany, an innkeeper's son, during the war, not far from a Nazi concentration camp. Was that the root of his torment? Was he a victim? A collaborator?
Except she did know. All of it. Joseph was her creation. Haussler, a conceptual artist from Germany living here since 2001, had staged an elaborate deception for the neighbourhood - my neighbourhood - to sensational effect. Over the first few weeks, hundreds of locals milled around Joseph's driveway every day, waiting for their tour. The ruse was perfect.
"It's as close to being inside someone's head as you're ever going to get," said an incredulous Bill Keith, 23. Keith was disturbed by Joseph's work, but touched by his loneliness; in one room, which Haussler said had been sealed, the "archivists" - actually Haussler's art collaborators - a tender homage to a long- departed female companion was found.