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High Wire Artist & Master of the Impossible
From his legendary 1974 high wire walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center to an Oscar-nominated film and highly viewed TED Talk, Renaissance man Philippe Petit continues to amaze the world with his artistry and eloquence as a motivational speaker. Combining his talents for storytelling, drawing, poetry, audience participation and theater with a lifetime of captivating tales and death-defying adventures, Petit’s unique and highly customizable presentations celebrate creativity and challenge all of us to defy the impossible. Read More >
Born in France, Petit pursued magic, juggling, fencing and rock climbing before teaching himself tightrope walking at the age of 16. Despite being a voracious learner, Petit was expelled from five schools in his youth. Self-taught in Spanish, German, Russian and English, he also developed a keen appreciation of architecture and engineering while performing on five continents. Petit’s first “coup” was walking between the towers of Notre Dame in Paris in 1971. He followed with a walk between the pylons of the Sydney Harbor Bridge, setting the stage for “the artistic crime of the century,” his Twin Towers walk a quarter of a mile above the sidewalks of New York. Petit’s book, To Reach the Clouds (re-titled Man on Wire in paperback), recounts that epic adventure. It was also the basis for the 2009 Academy Award-winning documentary, Man on Wire. In 2015, Petit was portrayed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the feature film, The Walk, directed by Robert Zemeckis. Petit went on to perform around the world, including a walk across the Seine to the second story of the Eiffel Tower and between the Jewish and Arab quarters of Jerusalem. He also continued to write about creativity and his life philosophies. His tenth book, Creativity: The Perfect Crime, is a manifesto on the creative process, revealing unconventional ways of approaching creative endeavors. Petit has also composed an e-book for TED Books, entitled Cheating the Impossible: Ideas and Recipes from a Rebellious High-Wire Artist.
Believing that “life should be lived on the edge of life,” Petit delights audiences with his humor, tales of overcoming challenges and his indomitable spirit. (“It’s impossible, that’s for sure. So let’s start working!”) A world-class performer with an outlaw sensibility, he often incorporates feats ranging from magic and poetry to pick-pocketing to illustrate his points. He is also known for his unique “frescoes,” drawn during his talks, that feature key words and concepts with whimsical drawings. These signed works of art are later proudly displayed in company headquarters around the world—a souvenir of an unforgettable encounter with one of the most remarkable people of our time. Read Less ^
TEDTalk: The Journey Across the High Wire
Mikhail Baryshnikov said of Petit’s book, “He is an inspiration to all who dare to dream of the seemingly impossible.” Well before his epic 1974 walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, Philippe Petit had become an artist who answered first and foremost to the demands of his craft — not only on the high wire, but also as a magician, street juggler, visual artist and writer. Making the audience his accomplice, Petit reveals new and unconventional ways of approaching creative endeavors, from generating and shaping ideas to reinventing problem solving, to finally pulling off the “coup” itself—executing a finished work. An inspiring presentation for both artists and ordinary mortals in search of fresh ways to tackle challenges and embrace possibilities.
In this highly customizable presentation, Philippe Petit revolves motivational storytelling around his signature “fresco” of words and whimsical drawings. Choosing from a long list of themes that range from “fear”, “faith” and “passion” to “change”, “problem solving,” “breaking the rules” or “questioning the question,” Petit shares stories from his remarkable life and high wire adventures, while also creating a unique piece of art. At the close of the talk, he signs the fresco, makes it available for audience photos and gives it to the client for display in their offices.
Philippe Petit has taught himself magic, juggling and the high wire. He speak six languages, has published 10 books, draws, practices lock picking, directs plays, was seen bullfighting in Peru and is an accomplished pickpocket! He also knows how to dance in the face of death-defying high-wire challenges. The lessons that he has learned traveling and performing on five continents are truly life changing. In this highly motivational talk, he focuses on what we all must do to overcome our fears, cheat the impossible, and summon the focus, tenacity, passion and courage to pursue our dreams.
"What a remarkable and inspirational event! I have received and continue to receive an overwhelmingly positive response from our leaders. Philippe's mix of passion, creativity, humor, and authenticity was truly inspirational and just what our leaders needed to experience. In addition, Philippe's generosity of spirit was evident, as he spent time eating lunch with the group, chatting with various leaders, taking pictures, etc. From the time spent after his performance, leaders were able to experience Philippe's authenticity and see that his performance wasn't an act, but rather a way of life. The event was a homerun! I'm so happy we were able to make this happen."
"By all accounts, Philippe’s lecture was the highlight of the Idea Festival. I heard many wonderful comments: 'I was spellbound,' 'It was a fascinating speech,' 'Petit was unbelievable,' '“What an interesting man,' 'What a creative personality' and especially, 'It was an experience of a lifetime.'"
"Like all extraordinary artists, Philippe Petit’s practice is founded in rigor, scrutiny and dedication. What sets Philippe in a class all his own is his restless quest to conquer the greatest physical heights, achieving a precise balance of chaos and creativity. He is an inspiration to all who dare to dream of the seemingly impossible. Dear friend: I salute you!"
"The community is raving about Philippe’s dialogue with the audience! Faculty members said Philippe’s presentation was the best they ever attended. We are urging the Arts Faculty to consider nominating Philippe as Artist in Residence…"
"It is hard to imagine a more perfect evening. We are in awe of your speaking talents."
"Thank you Philippe for the glorious spontaneity of your conversation on stage. Your expressiveness and alert good energy held everyone in rapt attention. You reminded us of what it should be like to live life to the fullest. It was a glorious night at the Rubin."
"Thank you for speaking at our Commencement Exercises. Your reflection about 'taking that first step' and the preparation, confidence and courage that it requires, whether on a wire or in one’s life, will serve as sound advice to our seniors. It was a perfect message to hear as they embark on the next stage of their lives—and it was relevant to the entire audience, young and old."
"Philippe is unique, open and inspiring, a fundamentally revolutionary creator, a true original who does not accept accepted wisdom or take no for an answer."
"Your presentation was truly inspirational! It was a tribute to the imagination and to following your dreams. Many teachers told us you were the best speaker they ever heard."
"For a guy who walks the walk, Philippe can definitely talk the talk. Thanks to his absolute ability with language, Philippe inspires us with incredibly audacious magical tales."
"Every time I watch Philippe Petit perform, my heart beats a mile a minute, and I wonder, 'What is going through his mind up there?'
Listening to Philippe on stage, now I know. His lectures are as awe-inspiring as his accomplishments on the wire."
"If life is a walk on a wire, suspended between birth and death, Philippe Petit reminds us that the humble precision of every little step can lead to greatness."
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