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London mysteries: Mark marks the spot

Posted at 5:45 pm, April 16, 2012 in Secret London

London Mysteries
Each week we solve one of London’s great mysteries (as submitted by you, the reader). This week Ted Harris from Poplar asks ‘I keep seeing the name
‘Mark’ chalked on bricks all over the city – who is he?

We assumed the scrawling was simply the work of some teenage whippersnapper with a large ego and an infinite supply of white chalk, but we were wrong. This isn’t just any old tag. It’s art. The, um, markings are the work of the Turner Prize-winning Mark Wallinger, who chalked walls across London as part of his 2010 Frieze art fair project.

The Marks have popped up all over the place – from Clapham Junction to Mayfair to Camden Town, but the template is always the same: the name is written within the space of a single, standard-size brick. At his Frieze show, Wallinger presented a slideshow of the results: 2,265 images appear, one every three seconds over a span of almost two hours. But what is the point of it all?

In Martin Herbert’s excellent recent book on the artist, the author explains that the idea behind Wallinger’s knowing exhibitionism is an attempt to examine the role we all play in the larger scheme of things. Bricks were chosen because, according to Wallinger, they are ‘as ubiquitous as people’. Herbert concludes: ‘There is a fine line being walked here between controlling one’s environment and accepting how insignificant one is within it.’

Not convinced? Head out to Wimbledon, where some witty sceptic has chalked the word ‘Mock’ on to a brick wall. We imagine that Wallinger is probably chuckling about that one too. George Charlton

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