L’homme trolleybus

Les Urbaines, Lausanne, 2015

L’homme-trolley-bus is a public performance and an installation presented in Lausanne during the art festival Les Urbaines.

To understand this work it is necessary for me to explain the historical background by which it is inspired and which links it with the city of Lausanne. During the early 1980’s in the streets of Lausanne it was common to encounter Martial Richoz, named by the population « L’homme Bus » (the bus man). In a few years this man became a popular figure and part of the contemporary folklore of Lausanne.

Martial Richoz, who was a fanatic of the Lausanne bus company TL and all trolley-bus vehicles, created his own imaginary bus company because he could never achieve to drive once in his life a bus due to psychiatric problems. As a kid he start to play in the streets as a bus driver building soap-box buses which became over the years more and more accurate. Few of those soap-box buses are today part of Musee de l’Art Brut collection. But the work of Martial Richoz wasn’t only to act as a bus driver in the street – his home was full of handmade components of a public service company.

All this activity was looked on by the population with a certain ironic gaze but Martial Richoz had a sort of distance with his « foul » activity describing it as a necessity for him to not have deep depression and to simply be happy. To share his own words: I create an imaginary work to be happy and people say I’m crazy, but I see only people being sad to go work and for me they are crazy.

The bus man got controversial in 1986 after few people asked the authorities to block this activity because sometimes Martial Richoz would get too much into this fiction world and asking people for tickets on the street, sometimes getting aggresive otherwise the imaginary bus company never affected the daily life of Lausanne and when Martial Richoz was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, a big public debate started on the liberty to behave in public space.

This work was first intended to awake this collective memory doing re-enactments of the bus man in the streets of Lausanne. To prepare this activity I made research on the actual public bus company and met people who knew Martial Richoz. I followed the way Martial Richoz created his company to find out a sort of method and what necessary elements were required to open such an enterprise. My position wasn’t to speak about Martial Richoz and his personal problem. My goal was to center the collective problematic of acting « out of the norm » in the street and create an imaginary work. A second point was to keep the memory of bus man alive and consider this folklore figure as part of the city history which was somehow forgotten or barely saved as raw art phenomena.

The interesting point of this story is also that several newspaper interviews and few tv interviews of Martial Richoz who spoke as a real bus company manager and said at the same time that is an imaginary company. After weeks in psychiatric hospital he decided to close officially this activity with a public statement and said that he was forced to close his imaginary company to be able to be released from the hospital.

The title is already evoking the controversial relationship between the manager of imaginary Lausanne bus company and the community of the city, because « bus-man » was considered by Martial Richoz as unperfected cause his company was composed by Trolley-bus. In one interview he declares that the correct public nickname should have been « the trolley-bus-man ».

Below are some pictures of my Les Urbaines performance and installation and link for a documentary on Martial Richoz L’Homme-bus.