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: 3881
Description: Preview of the Glasgow Green showings of the film, mainly good short review of their careers

Torch Songs

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 of art.)

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 Drummond flatly.

"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.

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