FEATURE K FOUNDATION
0 on. put a tnatch 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 documentary. featuring video footage of the burning. has established that the money was almost certainly genuine. But was it an? 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
‘Doetorin’ 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 '3' 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 in the music industry. As the KLF. or Kopyright Libertation 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.
14 The List 3-16 Nov I995
After a hit-studded career in the music industry, the KLF had
money to burn, and that’s exactly what they did. The video of them burning £1 million is featured in a BBC documentary and a series of screenings in Glasgow, but is it art asks Eddie Gibb.
The following year. a series of mysterious advertisements appeared in The Guardian and other newspapers. announcing that the K Foundation had formed with the intention of awarding a substantial prize to Britain’s worst artist. The ads contained enough clues to indicate this was Drummond and Cauty up to their old tricks again. On the night that Rachel Whiteread received the l993 Turner Prize for her concrete ‘House’ in London’s east end. she also became unofficially Britain’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 Turner itself. After a couple of
more secret events also featuring large amounts
A major body at cash: a cool million quid awaits the ﬂames
of money. the K Foundation decided to burn a million quid. This was. they said. their approximate after-tax earnings from the music business. ‘lt was the best thing we could do at the time.’ said Cauty simply.
Ifthe K Foundation are about anything. it’s the relationship of art and money. Not money as an
‘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.’
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 of 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 documentary filmmaker Kevin Hull got in touch with them to see if they would take part in a satirical 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. l‘ve burnt a million quid and everyone thinks it’s ; 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 culminates on Glasgow Green on Guy Fawkes’ Night. Bill and Jimmy will be there. so you can ask them yourself ifburning a million quid is art. Or maybe you shouldjust ask for a penny for the Guy.
Omnibus is shown on Monday 6 November on BBC I. .S'creenings of ‘Watch the K Foundation Burn a Million Quid' will be held around Glasgow. C heck ﬂyposters for details.