Walking Men Worldwide™ is a series of public art installations, a photographic collage of pedestrian traffic icons from cities around the world, which was created by artist Maya Barkai. The project was conceived as a collaborative and interactive effort that harnesses professional and amateur photographers, each adding a piece to the collage through www.walking-men.com Once assembled on one canvas, these icons represent the ever-growing list of international contributors.
The subject of this project started with one of New York City’s most familiar street icons, one that repeatedly appears in the pedestrian traffic light we meet every day. As one of NYC’s most recognizable figures, the ‘walking man’ is also an international celebrity, a graphic sign that transcends all languages and places, and appears in various forms around the world as an integral part of our urban landscape.
Numerous traffic-light-characters represent the modern “Walking Men”. Standardized yet diverse, they commonly show us the correct and safe way of travel. The Walking Men Worldwide™ project explores various representations of the universally rendered ‘man’, and attempts to examine its inherent conundrum; why is it that while we all consider these icons to be topologically identical, they appear to add such a unique character to our urban identity? These two-dimensional ‘men’, omitted of all idiosyncratic detail, repeatedly reveal themselves in multiple forms on traffic lights and street signs on every corner, as this photographic collage unveils a rich and fascinating world within the confines of a coherent, multi-lingual graphic vocabulary.
What started as a series of largescale public art interventions, has evolved into an important, rare visual document on its own right. This body of work not only provides us with the first and most cohesive look into the world of human circulation, but in leading a participatory experience through a collaborative process that is rooted in the nature of documentary photography, the work has unified people through a simple yet powerful act of art; The creative process involved in my work is an example for how an artist can gather hundreds of worldwide contributors by utilizing social media as a platform, and motivate people to take part in the creation of a collage that unites them all on one canvas. In doing so, it creates a collaborative process that diminishes all political agenda, and becomes a “graphic Esperanto”.