The year 2000 (or more accurately June 2000 - May 2001) was designated the Year of the Artist and ten regional arts boards provided funding for the creation of new work in unusual settings.
The slogan was ‘1000 artists in 1000 places’.
I was commissioned by South West Arts to make an installation for Exmouth Beach in Devon. The beach at low tide is a huge, wide, flat expanse of fine sand. My idea was to mark out a large square grid across this area with pyramid-shaped beacons, and - at dusk - invite people to walk through the space.
I made 25 pyramids which were to be arranged in a 5 x 5 formation, covering an area 100 metres by 100 metres. Graham Calvert from Birmingham art collective Blissbody made electronic circuits for me so that each pyramid lit up for about 20 seconds when approached. Therefore as people walked through the space their progress was temporarily traced in a pattern of lights.
While were were setting up we used Exmouth Pavilion as our base and I noticed a poster for a performance by the ‘Eden Nights’ ballroom dance troupe. I phoned them up and asked them if they’d consider a collaboration. They said yes. We took sixteen of the pyramids to the Pavilion Ballroom, set them up, and the dancers improvised a routine. So this turned into a nice extra event for the Year of the Artist project; it worked well - but after all what is dancing but organised movement through space?
Subsequently I was invited to take 25 Pyramids to other locations for impromptu events. These included West Park, Wolverhampton; Porthmeor Beach, St Ives; and - at the invitation of Pete Massey (pushing wheelbarrow, below, right), the organiser of ‘Scarborough Festival of Light’ - at Scarborough Castle. Scarborough Castle is a very ancient site owned by English Heritage who - quite understandably - wouldn’t let me drive any fixing stakes into the ground.
The opening night was a success, but, perhaps inevitably, during the week there was a huge gale one night and most of the pyramids, which of course were not fixed down, were destroyed. The Scarborough Evening News, who'd been covering the event, ran a headline ‘Doesn’t Chris Eckersley know it’s windy Up North? - and that was the end of that!