Chalk Walk was a land-art installation set along the chalk path that runs between Brighton Marina and the village of Rottingdean, shown as part of the 'I Don't Know Where We're Going But It Sure Sounds Nice' programme of events.
Participants could wander the length of the path, discovering new chalk and coal formations deposited at intervals along their journey. With formations left at specific intervals a few metres apart upon the sea wall, participants could explore the culminating experience of 28 structures over a distance of some 2 miles.
Each pile was arranged in a unique formation, taking into account existing cavities in the rock, the shape and colour of the wall, and proximity to any erosion or human interventions (screws, posts, etc.). By situating the work at intervals along the linear path of a popular walking route, its audience were able to approach the materials involved from a multitude of positions – first as a pile of stones, then later as a deliberate incursion, experiencing the work as a process, a temporality that extended into the past (the memory of the piles they had passed) and the future (the expectation of those yet to come). This sense of temporality was underscored by the nature of the objects involved – coal and chalk are not only themselves products of processes, but those processes, rendered in the sedimentary layers, are made available to perception upon their surface.
Chalk is present in both the water and the ground, and is as such integral to the habitation of the area: it provides sustenance for the flesh, but also serves as building material for much of the area's housing, literally shaping the landscape upon which the city is built. Furthermore, though life-giving, chalk derives from death, as the sedimentary remains of micro-organisms. It is an embodiment of the cyclical nature of humanity’s relationship to their environment.
Like chalk, coal is a natural material comprised of fossilised remains, though of wood rather than shell. It also harbours life-giving properties - we not only require trees to breathe, but coal serves to heat our bodies and our homes, and (historically) to allow us to move at speed through the landscape. Upon the chalk path, coal serves as a type of noise upon the environment, an unnecessary addition that breaches the area's uniformity. Each black pile is a violence upon the landscape, a disorder that points beyond the expected. The utility of natural materials in this way highlights the different processes underlying their very existence: the inclusion of coal prevents the perception of chalk as simply a thing that is there, instead opening it up to its own potential. To perceive the difference inherent in the two opposing materials is to lead the perceiver along a conceptual path as to how such differences came about, what material processes each has been subject to before that point, and what it means that they have ended up here together.
Such perception relies upon a dual immediacy that allows objects and contexts to be witnessed concurrently. It is only through the act of navigating the chalk path and finding such piles recurring at intervals, that the work appears deliberately fashioned, rather than mere debris. Likewise, it is the time taken to travel towards the coal sculptures, and the act of walking between them, that places the perceiver in a position of orientation - it is the journey through a shared environment that makes the objects within it significant.