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Tinguely Pilgrimage

"Life is movement. Everything transforms itself, everything modifies itself ceaselessly, and to try to stop it. . .seems to me a mockery of the intensity of life." ...Jean Tinguely (1925-1991)

Jean Tinguely's work was an influence on me when I was a student in college in 1960. His "Homage to New York" had just made a shambles of the sculpture garden of the Museum of Modern art as it destroyed itself in an artist-assisted paroxysm of fire, water, electricity and explosives. His frantic, futile animalistc machines which proceeded to beat and shake themselves to death with a single-minded madness were heatbreakingly funny. His ideas that life, human or mechanical, was brief and absurd resonated with the existential ideas of Albert Camus whom I was reading at the time. I found these notions more relevant than the "truth to materials" of abstract modernism my midwestern teachers were espousing.

In 1984, my wife, Janet, and I had an opportunity to go to Europe. So I made a Hitchiker of myself wearing a Detroit Art Works T-shirt that has an image of "Song for Luke" on the front. I wrote a message in English and French on the back asking the finder to take the cut-out to the studio of Mssr. Tinguely in Montreaux, Switzerland


Late one afternoon, wearing the same T-shirt as the Hitchiker, Janet and I left our hotel in the center of Paris, carrying the Hitchiker under my arm. At the nearby Metro station, we found that the route taking us in the direction of Montreaux terminated at a place called Marie D'Ivry. Janet said apprehenvisely, "Do we have to go all the way to the end? Can't we just take it some distance in that direction?" I wanted to go all the way to the end of the line, so we bought a fare to that destination and boarded the train.

Jim Pallas with his hitch hiker on he Paris Metro tplatform

People stared with that casualness of sophisticates seeing nothing unusual. On the train, the nature of the passengers changed as the trip out of the citie's center progressed. Gradually, Europeans were replaced by Africans who, in turn were replaced by Asians who got off before the last stop.

Riding the Metro to the end.

Finally, at Marie D'Ivry, we were the only passengers. Much of the journey had been underground,. We had no idea of the nature of the neighborhood we were venturing into as we left the train station.

Francois Galliard takes the Hitch hiker.
It was dusk. It was deserted. The few commercial establishments were shuttered.Still apprehensive Janet said , "OK. This is good. Do what you have to do, and let's go." I said I wanted to walk a few blocks away from the station. She rolled her eyes but dutifully followed. We came to a church. I set the stand up on the sidewalk by the road and set the Hitchiker on it. We took some photos and started back. When we were about a block away, a young man in a car came down the road. We turned to watch. He went on by. Then he slowed and stopped. He backed up and leaned over and looked at the Hitchiker. He got out of the car and read the back. He picked up the cutout and started to load it in the car. At this point, we started walking back. He saw us. He noticed me and did double-take on my shirt. He looked confused, as though he thought maybe he had done something wrong. He started to return the Hitchiker . I protested. His English matched my French: nonexistent. Janet translated. We determined that his name was Pascal Gaillard of Rue Ferdinand Leger in Ville Juif. He was visiting his girlfriend nearby. He said he had friends who were going to the Montreaux Jazz Festival.that year. Maybe, they would take the Hitchhiker to Montreaux. We took his picture and helped him load it into his car. It was dark when he drove away.


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