To the moon via the beach ( The Beach) - sand sculpture

Every now and again a project comes along which I am very proud to be part of. This 'Art Happening' in Arles, France was one of them.

I have mentioned before that sand as an artistic medium is looked down on by the art world and I think this is for a few reasons. It is associated with hippies busking on beaches all around the world who usually create Kitch sandcastles or overly accessible sculptures. In general, this is one of the things I like about sand art: the fact that it is so accessible to the public. But this for the art world seems to be a big no no. The 'High art' scene would prefer art to be the exclusive domain of the high brows. But for me, if you need a doctorate in philosophy and art to appreciate a piece there must be something wrong.

Sand art can be guilty of earning this reputation. All visuals and no substance, I find this unfortunate, We have a captive audience and what should we present them with.
For me art is like food, we could feed everyone with MacDonalds or you could give them something more nourishing. This is something I always strive for, feeding the mind as well as the eyes. Tickling the more obscure taste buds and getting the audience to not only Look but See. Unfortunately and in general producers of projects don't seem to understand this and so sand art has the appearance of mindless entertainment.

The view of sand in the art world may also have something to do with the fact that a price tag can't be attached. As I see the rise in NFT artworks in the crypto world I am starting to appreciate this. The value of my work is only in the eyes of the beholder and not for resale at a profit. Who is going to invest for something they can't possess and turn a profit on? So, as part of an industry, it can seem like a black sheep.

Maybe I am overthinking this but these are the thoughts I do be having while I work. Either way, I still love the mix of performance and sculpture this genre allows.

Hi Art

This project was different, it was funded through a group called the Luma Foundation. Formed by philanthropist Maja Hoffman in Switzerland. The idea was to create a base in Arles and this project was to kick it all off "Luma Arles is a cultural centre dedicated to providing artists with opportunities to experiment in the production and presentation of new work in close collaboration with other artists, curators, scientists, innovators and audiences." Source

For 'To the Moon Via the beach' my friend Wilfred Stijger @stijgerart was asked to put together a crack team of sculptors and artists to create the centrepiece of the project. In an Amphitheatre in the centre of town, we would bring in over 700 tonnes of sand and over the course of a week transform it, first into a beach and then to the surface of the moon in an ever-evolving landscape. It was all very experimental and was a great adventure that I was happy to be asked to join.

As we worked other artists would be inspired by what we did and create artworks of their own all around the structure. It was so interesting to be accepted into this world like the professionals we try to be.

Dream team

It was a great team that Wilfred put together: Edith Van Der Wetering, Wilfred, Mac David, me, Darren Jackson, Eldarja Kubov and Stephaine Quayle and as a wonderful perk of the job I was able to bring my then fianceés Clodagh along for the fun.

We were really treated like superstars by Luma. They gave us a château to stay in with a wonderful rustic feel and its own swimming pool and brought us to dinner every night to the most exclusive restaurants. They had rented two cars to get us around and there was no expense spared to our needs.

Beginning a project like this can be a bit daunting. Not having a clear picture of the finished result or how to get there we fumbled around trying different techniques and trying to look professional but in the end, we just started to have fun and let that translate to the sand.


Wilfred was the main man but each of us had to bring our own creativity into the mix to make it a success. Wilfred had invented some cool tools to help with the textures, like this rake to create the sand ripples closest to the shore. I really liked the idea but on inspection of the effect it created, it was too uniform and not natural enough. What we ended up doing was attaching lots of water bottles to strings and dragging them in a wavy pattern across the sand.

It worked fantastically. This image was taken of a spot lite section one evening. If you zoom in you can see how similar it looks to those ripples nature creates with easy. Ironically making sand look like sand can be quite difficult but with this effect, I think we were well on our way. It worked particularly well when the sand was completely dried out on the surface.

As we worked away from where we thought the water would be we piled the sand up into dunes. These were a challenge as there are no real rules on how they should be. Making them like smooth sharp waves running through the plot gave just the effect we were looking for.

Half time

At around halfway through the week we had achieved what we thought said 'Beach' and it became a great playground for other artists to perform and play on.

Two of the main artists were Philippe Parreno and Liam Gillick. They conceived the entire project and acted as curators. They are part of the core team of Luma and in the 'Real art' world something of big wigs. They allowed us full freedom to create and enjoy the process. It was so much fun to play all day like gladiators in this amazing historic space.

Clodagh felt like she had finally arrived and was treated to all the same perks as us. She spent her days while we worked sitting by our pool writing a script to a short film called 'Patsy dick'. She was in heaven.

Over time

I think I will split this post in two parts because as usual, I am writing too long. In the next part I will talk about how we then transformed the beach into the moon and talk about some of the other art projects that were going on.

I'll leave you with these flags which some artist had sent over to the project to place on the beach. The artist never arrived themself and we had to work out the best way to display them. I don't know what they represented and thought they took away rather than added anything.

And finally, here are some videos from the project which Luma made to document the project.
See you on the moon.


Timelapse Video from the Luma Foundation

Wilfred explaining the process


Thanks for reading. I use PeakD to document my work as an ephemeral Sculptor of sand, snow and ice, amongst other things. This will hopefully give it a new life on the Hive Blockchain. Below you will find some of my recent posts.

Sliced Nativity - Sand sculpture

The Dark Knight - ice sculpture

20,000 leagues under the sea - snow/ ice sculpture

I hope you'll join me again soon

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[//]:# (!pinmapple 43.677659 lat 4.630952 long To the moon Via the beach (The Beach) - sand sculpture 2012 d3scr)