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By Chris Gray (01 October, 2002, The Independent)
ONCE YOU have set fire to a million pounds and had to be restrained from cutting off your own right hand on stage, there are precious few ways left to create controversy.
But Bill Drummond, who mixed conceptual art and pop music with KLF in the 1990s, has managed it with an artwork using obscene language to pose a question about God. It angered Catholics in Liverpool, where it was shown in a disused church, with one so furious as to be driven to theft.
Drummond's work, a comments book embossed with a question asking "Is God a C***?" has been stolen from St Peter's Church, where it was on display as part of the Independent Liverpool Biennial festival. Entitled To the Glory of God: New Religious Art, the display includes a 30ft white tower containing the book.
The work had attracted about 60 responses, divided in their answers. It disappeared last week and exhibition curator Neal Brown believes the culprit is either an offended art-lover or a memorabilia-seeking KLF fan.
It has been replaced by an identical book, but a pounds 1,000 reward has been offered for the original's return. Drummond, 48, himself a believer, could not be contacted yesterday but in a short story accompanying the book, suggests he would answer 'no' to the question. "God is responsible for all the things I love, the speckles on a brown trout; the sound of Angus Young's guitar, the nape of my girlfriend's neck, the song of the black cap when he returns in Spring. I never blame God for all the shit, for the baby Rwandan slaughtered in a casual genocide, the ever-present wars, drudgery and misery that fills most of our lives."
St Peter's Church, which dates from 1788, was leased to a regeneration company by the Archdiocese of Liverpool with a clause that nothing should happen within its walls that could offend Christians. A diocese spokesman said the book seemed to violate this. "We will not be asking for the whole exhibition to be shut down but we will be seeking to remove the book," he said.
,Whatever happens the question will not go away. Drummond has opened phone lines for people to answer 'yes' or 'no' to his question and plans to paint the results on an M25 flyover.
[Illustration] Caption: Bill Drummond: Obscene reference to God
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