Delivering a Message

Delivering a Message

By Tammy Thorne (from summer 2008, issue 1 of dandyhorse)

Photo Alex vs. Alex

This delightful telegram below was addressed and delivered to me personally at a bicycle gathering by a bumbling French postman named Martin de la Rue. Listed on the telegram was the intersection where we were at, and the message “URGENT: DELIVER WITHOUT DELAY.” The message read: "The Bicycle is as good company as most husbands. When it gets old a woman can dispose of it And get a new one without shocking the entire community."

The postman, dressed in 1940s period costume, is the creation of local bicycle advocate, photographer and artist, Martin Reis.

dandyhorse had the opportunity to interview the French postman during his second year of duty in Canada.

DH: Monsieur de la Rue, why do you deliver by bicycle?

MR: Bon… parce-que c’est plus pratique, evidament mieux pour la santé.

DH: En anglais, s’il vous plait?

MR: With a sniff, he continued, “It is stupid to take the car and it stinks.”

DH: Canada Post usually delivers by truck. Why is your way better?

MR: “They deliver everything by giant truck.” He laughs. “My work would never be done. It would take weeks by truck! Don’t tell me it takes weeks for you to get your mail? I know when I am delivering sometimes I am finding a big truck in the way in the lane for the bicycles. This is no good for anyone.”

“I think bicycles are the best way.”

And, then with a smile and a nod, he is off on another delivery…

My telegram (above, with a quote from Ann Strong), it turned out, was just one of many “messages of hope” delivered by de la Rue. Based on the cycling postman in Jacques Tati’s 1949 film Jour de fête, Reis says his postal carrier was also inspired by friend and fellow artist Corwyn Lund, who delivered postcards on a red bike as part of a performance art piece at Harbourfront. “It made me realize the potential to combine fun and art,” says Reis. “I like that private-public bridge that performance art, in an unexpected situation, creates.”

It was during last year’s Nuit Blanche, and its non-corporate sister event Nuit Noire, that Martin de la Rue really came to life. “I found 35 artists I wanted to make deliveries to and handed out some generic extras. There is no prior announcement that the postman is coming. That is part of it,” says Reis. Reis also delivered a telegram to the new restaurant Tati on Harbord Street, named in honour of the French film star. “He got it!” said Reis, recalling the owner’s reception.

Reis’ French postman has also been known to attend Critical Mass in Toronto. “I try to send a positive message to celebrate the bicycle. This is a good place to do it.”

“It is about achieving that joie de vivre,” he says. “The postman is not overtly political, but what he does, instead, is provide an anachronism. He is a man out of place. The postman is stuck in the past, yet he is efficient and straightforward. He is the antidote to the fast Blackberry society where everything disappears in air. The Postman communicates with you directly, which pleasantly surprises you.”

More of Martin Reis’ work can be seen at www.tino.ca (and throughout dandyhorse magazine). Martin de la Rue rides a Peugeot.

This article originally appeared in issue 1 of dandyhorse in the summer of 2008.

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