The New York Hitchhiker project, CARRY ME BACK, began smoothly."Carry Me Back"
All three hitchhikers - Monk, Lenni and Saul - arrived at Columbia University’s Macy Gallery right on schedule and were placed on the streets of New York in the late afternoon of May 14, 2011. They were to be picked up by strangers, taken to locations that held meaning for each of these historical figures, and be returned to the gallery in time for the opening of an art exhibit titled "Game Show NYC." The website tracking their movement via a geo-location devicewas up and functioning well. Their starting locations and subsequent movements can be seen on their respective web pages whose links are below.
Within a short period, Monk was on the move, going from his starting spot at W. 64 St. to Thelonious Monk Circle where he spent the night Saturday, May 14, 8:01:58 PM to Sunday, 1:01:55 PM. He reported in from W. 61 St and West End Ave at 1:41 P.M. before being taken over to W. 68 St. and near Broadway where he spent an hour or so. At 4:02 he reported in from all the way uptown at W 73 St and West End Ave. Next he was on the Major Deagan Highway at 5:02 P.M. and at 7:01 he's reported in at E 227th St and Lowerre Place in Edenwald, a suburb of New York where he stayed Sunday night.
By Monday morning, the Monk geo-tracker signaled from a trash dump at the mouth of Long Island Sound across from LaGuardia. Curious, but still, an interesting choice of locations. Over the next two days, the geo-locator reported in from various places within the dump as if shoved around by bulldozers until it stopped reporting, probably due to battery failure or inability to get cell phone service.
Lenni enjoyed the view from Chelsea Waterside Park at W 26 St where she was dropped off that Saturday at 5:02 P.M. until the early morning hours when she was taken inland a half block down Hat Street to the School of Visual Arts. She reported her last position there at 11:01 Sunday Morning.
The Hitchhiker of Saul Steinberg was positioned on the northeast corner of Washington Market Park on Saturday, May 14, 2011 5:02:02 PM and there he stayed two days until Monday, at 2:02:00 AM. He next reported in from Collister between Greenwich and Hudson at 2:26 A.M., apparently on his way to Bank Street between Greenwich and Washington where his last contact was from at 3:03 A.M.
Clicking on the animated image displays time of the location report.
To see maps that include location points and accounts of the individual HitchHikers click on their links below.
The black arrow marks their exact location.
It looked like the project was off to an interesting and varied start.
Another twenty-four hours passed, and there was no further movement from any of the three. As time went on, it was starting to look as though all might not be well. Indeed, those three locations were the final destination for the three tracking devices, making it clear that the tracking devices for Lenni and Saul had been disabled or confined to areas of no cell phone service until their batteries died. There was no denying the obvious conclusion: The hitchhikers were stolen within their first two days on the street. The timings suggest that three different individuals were the thieves.
What made me think that a hitchhiker project could possibly be successful on the mean streets of NYC?
In 2006, I had done a similar project,"Pioneers in the Valley of the Heart's Delight" for a city festival in San Jose, Ca. sending five Hitch Hikers on an ambitious cross-country journey. Four made it to their various destinations in California’s Silicon Valley. These Hitchhiking sculptures were portraits of six individuals (one sculpture was of two individuals, William Hewlett and David Packard.) who were instrumental in the digital revolution. The Hitchhiker of James Terman, which started out in Cambridge, MA., actually traveled across the entire continent and arrived at it’s designated destination! The people who picked those pieces up phoned or emailed the project's contact person as requested. They emailed photos of the adventures they took the Hitchhikers on. They knew the stories of the persons represented by the sculptures and identified with them. They wanted to be part of the effort to see these symbols of inventiveness and entrepreneurial spirit arrive at their destinations. This gave me reason to believe that at least one Hitchhiker would make it to its final destination starting out in NYC and ending in NYC. But New York is a special place, an arts and cultural center, and the fact is, my Hitchhikers unfortunately have a particularly strong appeal in art communities.
Since 1981, I've made 30 Hitchhikers.
My first 22 Hitchhikers were portraits, 20 of them portraits of the individuals who posed for them with the understanding that they could keep them for 1 year, but by the end of the year they were required to write anything they wanted on the back and abandon their Hitchhiker on the street/road of their choice within that year. People initially agreed to the deal, but later several reneged and did not abandon their portrait Hitchhiker in good faith. All who reneged were members†of the art community - artist, designer, writer. Only one, Ray Johnson, was honest about not putting it on the road. When confronted, he admitted that he couldn't give it up. He had grown attached to it.It was found in his estate after his death.His heirs agreed to return it to me. but it has disappeared from Richard Feigen Gallery in New York, where it was stored.The others rationalized, dissembled or remained silent.
Art and art acquisition are very much a part of New York, as are greed and ambition.
I knew that putting Hitchhikers on the streets of New York would be risky.Hitchhiking is risky.But I believe the true value of these sculptural pieces, the actual painted cut outs, is their role in creating stories.The collection of the stories and the images and documents that support those stories are the real artwork.At first the collection was represented in a loose-leaf binder.Now it is represented on the web, although I still maintain the notebook as the repository of the original documents.I am missing the stories surrounding Monk, Lenni and Saul. I would very much appreciate it if anyone who knows what truly happened to these three figures would share their knowledge, tell their story. The biggest disappointment of the New York Hitchhiker project is that these stories are not yet being shared.The adventures of the CARRY ME BACK Hitchhikers remain unknown.We can only speculate about what really happened to them.
But the Hitchhikers did function and maybe are still functioning as protagonists of potentially compelling stories.
The three thieves know the stories, and I believe that eventually those stories will be known by others.It's hard for someone to snatch a prize off the street and not brag about it. Some of these stories are probably already known by a few acquaintances, colleagues or relatives of the thieves.I hope those stories eventually find their way to join the record with all of my Hitchhikers.The three Hitchhikers were set out in the context of a game to be played on the streets of Manhattan at the request of the curators of the exhibit "Game Show NYC" at the Macy Gallery, teachers College, Columbia University.
Hitchhiking is an adventure full of surprises.
The rules of the game afixed to the back of each Hitch Hiker were ignored by the persons who carried these Hitchhikers off. Therefore I wish to change the rules:
To the person who finds and recovers, or enables me to recover, the Hitchhiker of Thelonious Monk, Saul Steinberg or Lenni Lenape, I offer 50% percent of whatever price that sculpture eventually sells for.
The thieves are disqualified from this offer, but I promise not to prosecute them if the sculptures are recovered. In the meantime, if you have the story – or any story - to tell about any of them, please contact the artist, jim(at)jpallas.com.
The following is the original presentation of the project.
"Games Show NYC" in the Macy Gallery at the Teacher's College of Columbia University
Briefly, the project consists of releasing three life-size, light weight painted "Hitch Hiking" figures into public spaces on Manhattan. One of the figures will represent a Lenni Lenape Native American woman. This Iroquois tribe occupied "Manna Hatta" Island when the Europeans first arrived. The other two will be Saul Steinberg, visual artist, and Thelonious Monk, musician and composer. I have selected these individuals to honor them as symbols of aspects of the city. Each will have several destinations that celebrate their achievements. Also affixed to each Hitch Hiker's back will be instructions to its self-appointed Players for registering and recording their travels and qualifying for a possible monetary reward. The last destination for all is the Macy Gallery, Teachers College, Columbia University, 525 W. 120 St. in time for the May 27 reception of a games conference and a large exhibition of artist-made games. The Hitch Hikers will be released to the public a few weeks before the reception. Until they arrive at the gallery, their whereabouts will constantly be reported by an embedded locator in each figure which generates markers in a map on a public web page. The idea being that interested persons will follow the itinerary and possibly meet its current Player in order to transport it to one of the destinations. (The project is similar to a very successful one Jim Pallas did in San Jose for their Zero One Festival Zero in 2006.)
A multi-site artwork created by Jim Pallas.
Location technology and map display engineered by Mario Wolczko.
Mid March, 2011: Lenni, Saul and Thelonious return to earth, open up email accounts and create Facebook pages for themselves.
April 12 - Thelonious has 68 "friends." Lenni has 113. Saul: 88. They are frequently harassed by Facebook robots who suspect something fishy is going on.
May 13 - The Trio arrives in Manhattan and is prepared to be set loose in the big city after a ride in a convertible down Broadway- weather permitting.
May 14 - The adventure starts as the home-coming trio sets out for their release.
See their individual pages for more travelog.
Copyright © 2011 Jim Pallas