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Evelyn Reid

X-Times People Chair Performance Artist Mistaken for “Crazy Person,” Fire Trucks Dispatched

By May 28, 2012

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x times people chair x-fois gens chaise angie hieslAbove: one of ten live exhibits on display in Montreal's Latin Quarter on Sunday, May 27. Photo © Evelyn Reid

Peter Lehmann has been performing on a chair bolted to building facades 20 feet in the air all over the world for the last 17 years. But only in Montreal do two fire trucks show up in response.

"They thought I was a crazy person! And they came five minutes late," said Lehmann, explaining that he was already removed from his chair, his performance having wrapped up by the time the trucks arrived a little after 4 p.m yesterday. The Cologne, Germany resident spent several hours since Thursday reading a soccer newspaper and cleaning soccer shoes 20 feet in the air, positioned on different building facades in the Latin Quarter in downtown Montreal. Called x-fois gens chaise, or x-times people chair, the live exhibit is a Festival Transamériques presentation, a free "human exhibit" produced by Cologne artist Angie Hiesl.

Exhibit technician Michael Abrazzo Blattman was as confused as Lehmann. In the words of Blattman, firefighters on the scene said "someone called them and said there was a man in a chair and he was having problems."

Hiesl, who's known for using public space as a stage for performance art, has been showing x-times people chair all over Europe and in South America. Featuring senior citizens doing everyday things like reading a book, eating, knitting, or in the case of the above photo, assembling a computer, performers go on with whatever they're doing, ignoring the crowds that gather below them. When their time is up, they climb down a ladder and simply walk away. In the case of the computer assembler, Montreal resident Jim Britton, about 20 people followed him for two blocks, like he was the Pied Piper. The Montreal performances, which ran May 24 through May 27, starred regulars like Lehmann as well as locals.

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