Torch Songs- Library of Mu
- Library of Mu record:
- Title: Torch Songs
- Date: 03 November, 1995
- Journal: The List (Scotland Listings Magazine)
- Author: ?
- Type of resource: Features
- Status: text
- No. views: 2981
- Description: Preview of the Glasgow Green showings of the film, mainly good short review of their careers
By ? (03 November, 1995, The List (Scotland Listings Magazine))
Go on, hold out a match to a crisp, brown tenner - there's no law against it, you
know. How does it feel to see the Queen's image burn up? There's an almost
treasonous thrill and definitely a sense of guilt which makes you think about
the homeless or all those starving children in Africa. Perhaps you might even
be moved to call it an artistic statement. When the flame dies, you'll probably
wish you had bought a round in the pub instead.
If you can, imagine those same mixed emotions multiplied by a factor of 100,000
and maybe you will get a sense of how the K Foundation felt when they torched a
million quid in a grand (well several grand, actually) gesture aimed vaguely in
the direction of the art establishment. An Omnibus documentry, featuring video
footage of the burning, has established that the money was almost certainly
genuine. But was it art? That's the question the K Foundation want answered.
Or so they say. The K Foundation are Bill Drummond - a Scot who became a
fixture on the Liverpool music scene in the 80s as Teardrop Explodes' manager -
and his collaborator Jimmy Cauty. Before that they had made rather good dance
records under a variety of aliases including the KLF, The Timelords (who
notched up a novelty number one with 'Doctorin' the Tardis') and, their
earliest incarnation, the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu. The latter achieved
instant notoriety in 1987 when their first album What The Fuck's Going On was
deleted almost immediately after release over a copyright disagreement with, of
all people, Abba. They didn't so much sample 'Dancing Queen' without
permission, as lift the entire track. This was the first, but by no means the
last indication that Drummond and Cauty were hell-bent on creating mischief on
the music industry. As the KLF, or Kopyright Liberation Front, they continued
to scam their way into the charts and onto the pages of the music press.
Then suddenly in 1992, after winning a Brit award for best band, Cauty and
Drummond, perhaps sensing they had taken their infiltration of the music
industry to the limit, announced that the KLF was disbanding and deleted the
band's entire back catalogue. KLF albums are no longer available in this
country, apart from a few over-priced Japanese imports, which is why it is hard
to dismiss their subsequent actions as a publicity stunt aimed at selling more
records. But Drummond and Cauty's 'no interviews' policy made it difficult to
discover what they were really up to.
The following year, a series of mysterious advertisments appeared in The
Guardian and other newspapers, announcing that the K Foundation had formed with
the intention of awarding a substantial prize to Britian's worst artist. The
ads contained enough clues to indicate this was Drummond and Cauty up to their
old tricks again. On the night Rachel Whiteread recieved the 1993 Tuner Prize
for her concrete 'House' in London's east end, she also became unofficially
Britian's worst artist, according to the K Foundation. In what was to become
typical of their cash-fuelled gestures, they awarded Whiteread £40,000 -
double the amount she netted from the Tuner itself. After a couple of more
secret events also featuring large amounts of money, the K Foundation decided
to burn a million quid. This was, they said, their approximate after-tax
earnings from the music business. "It was the best thing we could do at the
time," said Cauty simply.
If the K Foundation are about anything, it's relationship of art and money. Not
money as an abstract concept relating to investment or value, but hard cash.
They take Oscar Wilde's aphorism about the cynic who knows everything about
cost and nothing about value and turn it on its head. When the K Foundation
flew to Jura and systematically burnt £1 million in new £50 notes, fresh
out of their Bank of England Cellophane wrappers, the distinction between cost
and value became somewhat blurred. (A London art dealer who was offered a
suitcase full or the resulting ashes reckoned it might fetch £850 as a work
Although avid media manipulators, Drummond and Cauty have avoided doing formal
interviews since the early days of the KLF. However, after this burnt offering
to the God of Mammon last August, the boys were at a bit of a loose end. By
chance, BBC documentry filmmaker Kevin Hull got in touch with them to see if
they would take part in a stirical film about the National Lottery. Hull found
the boys rather depressed, and almost in a state of shock, they agreed to be
filmed talking about the K Foundation. "Every day I wake up and I think 'Oh
God, I've burnt a million quid and everyone thinks its wrong'," said Cauty. "I
don't know what we did, but I've never thought it was wrong," countered
"They seemed disturbed by what they'd done," says Hull. "They felt pain over
not knowing why they had done it, and now they've decided to turn that pain
into their next piece of art. Out of the ashes of their depression, they've
figured out how to rejuvenate the K Foundation."
And what they decided to do was show the video of the burning - it takes the
best part of an hour to reduce £1 million to ash - and ask the public what
they thought it meant. A series of public screenings and discussions
culiminates on Glasgow Green on Guy Fawkes Night. Bill and Jimmy will be there,
so you can ask them yourself if burning a million quid is art. Or maybe you
should just ask for a penny for the Guy.
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Posted by Guest on 2011-03-05 13:12:58
Of course it's art. They did it because it was the right thing to do.