We see them every day – the “Walking Man” that tells us it’s safe to cross. It’s an international celebrity, a graphic sign that transcends all languages, appearing in various forms around the world, adding its own unique character to our urban identity.
During Art & About Sydney, our streets are adorned with banners depicting walking men captured by photographers from around the world as part of an international art project, walking-men.com. Each figure is printed in human scale, both playful and intriguing, showing us how different countries choose to represent the “common man” in a simple pictogram.
In Odense, Denmark, the silhouette of native Hans Christian Anderson decorates each traffic light. In Berlin, the Ampelmannchen figure marks an important part of the city’s history, along with several other friendly female characters from Europe.
In January 2010, the project made its debut on 99 Church Street in Manhattan in W_alking Men 99. This installation was commissioned by the Alliance for Downtown NY. It was followed by a series of installations, including _Walking Men PERMM (2010), a public art installation in collaboration with the PERMM Museum of Contemporary Art in Russia, and Men At Work (2010) as part of the Bat-Yam International Biennale of Landscape Urbanism in Israel. Most recently, Men At Work NYC was unveiled around World Trade Centre Tower 4 (2011-2012).
Born in Jerusalem, Israel, Maya Barkai is a graduate of the School of Visual Arts’ Photography Department, and has been based in New York City for the last decade. Maya’s public art projects include Walking Men 99, a site-specific installation on the site of the upcoming Four Seasons Hotel in NYC’s Downtown area (2010) and Men At Work (2011) surrounding World Trade Centre Tower 4, which was selected for the Arts Public Art Network 2013 Year in Review.