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Walking across America—in silence

If you see a young man walking the highway some time in the next year—pushing a jogging stroller full of belongings and wielding a 4x5 view camera—say hello for us. But don't expect him to say anything back. That would be Greg Hindy ’13, who is planning to walk across America without saying a word after he graduates from Yale College this weekend.

Although he's getting his degree in cognitive science, Hindy says he took enough art courses at Yale to be an "honorary art major." That's how he discovered the work of Tehching Hsieh, a performance artist who underwent year-long art pieces in the 1970s and ’80s. The silent walk across the country "was initially conceived as a tribute to his artwork," Hindy says.

Hindy sees his own trek as a kind of performance-art piece, structured around some very specific rules. He will start from his home in Nashua, New Hampshire, on July 9, his 22nd birthday. He will walk, take pictures with his large-format camera, sleep in a small tent by the side of the road, and eat when necessary. And that's about it. He'll carry preprinted cards that explain his project to people he encounters (and some that ask "Can I use your bathroom?"). He'll eschew "noisemaking of any kind, including talking, and will abstain from reading, writing, listening to music, watching television, or any other kind of entertainment. The golden rule is that unless it is walking, photographing, or completely necessary to my survival, I am not allowed to do it." He plans to finish his journey in Los Angeles on his 23rd birthday.

Hindy is not the first person to want to get out and see America at eye level, of course, but his silence would seem to run counter to the usual goal of meeting different kinds of people along the way. Hindy allows that meeting people is "not my primary goal," but he suggests that his encounters with people could be "one of the more interesting aspects of the trip."

"A lot will be communicated through my silence," he says. During a three-day practice walk over spring break, he met a man who, after reading Hindy's card explaining his project, stopped talking himself and communicated with him through signs and gestures.

Hindy estimates that the project will cost about $10,000, including food, film, postage, and unexpected expenses. He got a $2,000 grant from the Chase Coggins Memorial Fund, and he's raised another $4,000 so far on Kickstarter, where he's offering photographic prints from his trip to backers.

For all his planning, Hindy acknowledges that his plans may change along the way. "Art-making happens when you're open to respond to things," he says. "We'll see how it goes. I might buy a video camera halfway through."

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