The exhibition is called Pyramid Piece and Return of the Pyramid Piece. When I was about ten years old I stole this tiny piece of rock from the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, and it became to me, as a kid, this kind of strange guilt object, because I couldn’t really understand why I had wanted to take something authentic rather than buy a replica, so in my mind it became inflated. It became this strange guilt object. Then it occurred to me a year or so ago to travel back to Cairo and find the exact space in the Pyramid which I had taken it from and put the rock back. In the video, ‘Return of the Pyramid Piece’ it shows me travelling back to the Pyramid fifteen years later and trying to find the exact spot from which I’d stolen the rock, and putting it back in.
In a way, this was the starting point of the whole group of works. It’s filmed by a man called Hassan who I met by chance in a café in Cairo, and it’s his way of… he had never used a video camera before, which is why you get this quite unconventional use of the zoom as he… and often you can almost feel his brain ticking, where he wants to zoom in, and he accidentally zooms out. But he did a brilliant job, and under quite a pressured situation, because you’re not really supposed to be climbing on the side of the pyramid, as that’s not allowed anymore.
Where it becomes kind of ridiculous is that you can see the size of the piece of rock in my hand, and then as the camera zooms in, you can see how eroded the site of the Pyramid just is, and how many gaps and holes, and years and hundreds of thousands of years of erosion.
Although on the one hand you have this anecdote about me taking this piece of rock from the Pyramid and then travelling to put it back, on the other hand the sculpture then becomes, hopefully, something else again. It tries to break away from the narrative and become something else. It’s kind of a monument to the piece of the monument. It’s enlarged 100 times in length and 100,000 times in volume. It took nearly a year to make. It’s all through knitted yarns and upholstery foam over a steel framework.
The knitted surface was made by small knitting machines which are made in the studio with a friend of mine. We’ve never quite worked out exactly how much yarn we use, but it’s 50 square metres of knitted material, and we had a kind of colour chart on the studio wall with the lightest yellow cones on one end, to the darkest browns on the other, and then as we were doing it, we would sort of pick off the cone, feed it in. And then cut that one out, put the next one in, so we could keep the colours constantly rippling and changing.
So with the small souvenir pyramids, the idea was… well, it was after I’d returned the rock to the Pyramid on the second trip, I had a few days in Giza and I was looking around the tourist shops, and became just fascinated by the huge variety of different possibilities that they had for the souvenirs. And I was interested in that question that I was asking myself, of what was it the first time that made me want to take something authentic rather than buy a sanctified souvenir. So I just decided that it would be interesting to set myself the challenge of buying every different possible variation of the pyramid souvenir that I could find in Cairo, and then just brought them all back in a suitcase. And I wasn’t sure at the time that that would actually be a sculpture in any way, but the way you encounter them, often they were laid out on the street, on rugs or on low tables, and the image of looking over them, and… I suppose one of the central ideas of the whole group of works is the idea of scale, and the idea of how, if you change the scale, how the object can kind of reveal a lot more of its meaning that wasn’t necessarily apparent initially. So with these, there was something nice about being able to stand and look over this small table top of pyramids.