Mike Barrett is known for walking the streets of Brighton and Hove with a pocket full of chalk. He marks different urban and natural locations with his signature sign and almost opens up a new dimension to these places. What is happening behind this gesture and why is it so relevant now? Let's ask Mike.
What was the initial impulse behind the “Here was a Time” series? Was it a rational decision to collect as much information about your environment as possible, or was it organic of you to roam around Brighton?
I put myself into lockdown as soon as I could see the trends in the COVID numbers, sparse as they were initially. The government lockdown came a week later. Taking chalk out on my walks...Did I even know what I was going to do? There was the urge to be outside and leave a visible mark of human presence even if futile. From the first mark, I think organic is a fair description of my process. How I marked and how I recorded it grew and changed over the weeks and months.
Your approach to work reminds us of the psychogeography that was practised a lot by the generation of Guy Debord. Do you feel connected to the concept of the flâneur – an urban wanderer? What does walking do for you?
I’ve certainly kept returning to Guy Debord’s psychographic map of Paris and have watched Nick Papadimitriou's video ‘the London perambulator’ multiple times. I also have Walter Benjamin’s ‘arcades project’ on my reading list.
Walking is easily available for me, I just step out of my house and put one foot in front of another. It allows me to be in the world at a pace when I can notice the small stuff. I’m under a big sky and I feel unconstrained. I’m very anti-car and would otherwise settle for bus and train if I wasn’t concerned about being in a crowded enclosed space in these times.