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By Iain Martin (29 October, 1995, The Times)
IT WAS a rainy night on Jura, to misquote the popular song. Two of the music world's most controversial figures exceeded even their own outrageous standards as they huddled in a boathouse and burnt Pounds 1m in cash.
This week, though, the two art world agents-provocateurs are to begin a national tour in Glasgow showing their film of the infamous event: Watch the K Foundation Burn a Million Quid.
The K Foundation, an offshoot of KLF, the pop group made up of Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, conducted the infamous burning in a bizarre ceremony on Jura in August last year. The group says it questions the role of money in the world of modern art.
The Glasgow screenings of the film are due to begin on Friday, culminating with an appearance by the pair at Glasgow Green next Sunday, bonfire night, according to organisers.
It is understood that Drummond and Cauty, both notoriously shy about granting interviews, want to show the film to inmates at Glasgow's Barlinnie prison.
It could mean the film being seen by robbers jailed for stealing considerably less than was burned on Jura. Yesterday staff said they were unaware of any application for access to the prison this week, but did not rule out the proposal.
Drummond and Cauty have also told their public relations agency to organise screenings in Rangers and Celtic supporters' clubs. If the clubs decline to participate, they will take the film around city pubs and ask for comments from the public.
The tour has been arranged to coincide with a BBCTV Omnibus documentary on November 6 examining the work of the group. It tells the story of how they hired a plane to the island of Islay, took a boat to Jura and carried out the burning during the night. The incident only came to public attention when a local policeman found burned remnants of the money washed up on a beach.
The pair have consistently sought controversy. They formed a pop group, The KLF (Kopyright Liberation Front), which in its early stages atrracted legal action from Abba and criticism from a Labour MP.
After a string of top five hits, including a number one featuring Tammy Wynette, the country and western star, the band was named Best British Band at the 1992 Brit Awards. They responded by placing the remains of a dead sheep in the foyer of the hotel hosting the awards. During their performance at the awards, the duo brought out machineguns and fired blanks at the audience made up largely of record company executives and music business journalists.
In 1993 they outraged judges of the prestigious Turner Art Prize by presenting their own award for worst works of art of the year. They named the winner as Rachel Whiteread, who had also won the Turner Prize that year. Whiteread was forced to accept the K Foundation's Pounds 20,000 (sic) prize money after it threatened to burn it if she failed to turn up at a mock awards ceremony. She gave it straight to charity.
The group claims it is challenging preconceptions about what art is. But one leading member of the Scottish arts community welcomed the Glasgow screenings. Julian Spalding, the city's arts and museums supremo, said: "They amuse me and they're making a valid point: that a lot of the modern art world is about making money."
Spalding said he thought the public would not be offended by the film because "many people are supicious of modern art and would agree with them that much of it is a bit of a joke".
Jean McFadden, a former leader of Glasgow district council, also welcomed the group's activities. "It's very brave that they are showing the proper contempt for money, commerce and markets. It's not a waste of money, it was their own.
"It would be a good thing if more people viewed money in the same way. It breaks my heart to see people in Glasgow queuing up to buy lottery tickets in the vain hope that they can win a fortune."
The screenings are certain to attract attention from curious Glasgow art fans. Tom Sullivan, acting manager at the Centre of Contemporary Arts. also described the project as amusing.
"It's good to reveal that the art world is about money," he said. "And anyway it's a bit of fun. It's not offensive. So much money is wasted in other ways." Additional reporting: Anna Day
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