KLF Khronicals #7: Why Did The K Foundation Burn A Million Quid?
Vicky Pea jumps head first in to Mumuland to get a job, an answer and a tattoo.
The Day Of The Job & Why Did The K Foundation Burn A Million Quid?
After last night getting up, out and into town for 1pm was more challenging than it should have been. None the less I arrived at our designated meeting point of Constellations just in time to join the other volunteers for the distribution of our jobs for the next three days.
Once all inside we were given a brief introduction and called idiots. Probably rightly so.
The first two names were drawn from a selection of buckets and given the roles of Volunteers Volunteer. One to assist in the assignment of jobs and one to manage the Big Book of Volunteers.
Our suspicions that Badger Kull would indeed be a band made up of volunteers was quickly proved to be correct.
The next names to be drawn would be given the responsibly of being Badger Kull Hardcore Fans. To obsess over the band, follow them about, get selfies, start social media accounts, create merchandise and generally become delirious at the mere mention of Badger Kull.
Then came the band selections. A choir and four bass players were chosen from those who had selected ‘I can sing’ and ‘I can play bass’ respectively. Their lives now changed forever as they’d soon come to discover. After each bass player was announced screeches and cheers erupted from the Superfans and they were quickly mobbed for autographs.
Some roles were issued to just one individual, such as the swimmer who is now in charge of procuring a Perch from the River Mersey. Others are issued to large groups. The issuing is slow as you’d imagine with 400 names to get through, but continues at a steady pace as each volunteer is given a card with their responsibilities and instructions on before heading to sign the big book with their name, role and phone number.
We get to the bucket containing the names of those people who claimed ‘They could draw’. Myself being one of them. Our host then goes onto explain the job at hand. It would go to one person who would produce the courtroom sketches from tonights hearing and present them to the press. “Shit just got real”. My heart was in my throat because I can freely admit that had that been me you’d end up with something only marginally better than stick men. Luckily for everyone it wasn’t my name called.
Before too long however my name was produced from a bucket and I would be one of the ‘Pullers’ for The Great Pull North taking place on Friday. This would involve dragging a large heavy object with ropes as part of a group. I’m quite happy with that.
Other jobs were much more involved and would require almost constant effort over all three days, such as the Superfans or the Dead Perch Menace (a group of tough guys and girls in Berets in charge of keeping us all in order). Mine would just be a one off requirement to perform some manual labour leaving me free to enjoy the majority of the three days without care or responsibility. Plus I’m really hoping that means I get a robe or outfit of some sort, it certainly sounds a bit ritualistic.
A selection of other roles I have since heard about are; Traffic cone collector, trolley collector, tyre collector, skull painter, bishop, graduation certificate preparer, grave digger, coffin barer, plant collector (I can’t remember the name of the specific plant but it was specific). There are many more.
After you received your job you were free to leave and not required to return until 7pm for the hearing at the Black E, unless your card stated otherwise. So most of us were left with some free time on our hands so head to the bar or the ping pong table.
The mood was fantastic. Everyone seemed to be having an amazing time. Assumptions of a high pressure, non stop and strict environment were dashed. This was jovial, relaxed and ultimately very enjoyable.
The Superfans were taking their jobs extremely seriously to the joy of everyone around them. Within minutes both official and fan social media accounts for Badger Kull had been set up and some of the tweets and content was causing much hilarity in their creativity. Anytime a band member appeared they’d be mobbed and even had an impromptu photo shoot. I genuinely applaud the Superfans for their impressive work.
In the space of a couple of hours a band had been formed, already gained a mass of dedicated followers, had a manager, roadies, merch designers, fly posters, marketing and social media workers and was trending online. They’d practically set up a business. It began to look like a total mockery of the music industry.
Today bands pay for sponsored content on social media and work tirelessly to increase their following. Here the Drummond, Cauty and Co have managed to produce a mechanism that creates its own hype, its own fans, its own myth and got people to pay for the pleasure of being fans and working for the band. They’d achieved more in a couple of hours than most bands can in months and didn’t spend a penny.
Whilst relaxing in the garden and meeting other fellow volunteers, discussing roles and laughing at the surrealism of it all someone made the mistake of joking about how long it would take for someone to get a Badger Kull tattoo in front of me. Within the hour this had happened. Welp
I’m covered in tattoos. Some good, some bad, some jokes, some with stories, some with no stories at all. It’s been many years since getting a new one actually felt like a big deal due to the quantity I have, after a certain point it really doesn’t matter any more. Once you’re heavily tattooed you’re heavily tattooed and unless you’re going to move onto your face it’s all the same. So what difference would one more mad tattoo make?
The artist and myself found the whole concept hilarious and now am the proud owner of the worlds first Badger Kull tattoo. Some people have found it fantastic, some immediately marked it as a mistake and a regret. Why did I do it? Because it was fun. It’s got a better story than any of my other tattoos too. Now I eagerly await for the bar to be risen further before the week is out.
At 7pm the volunteers gathered outside the Black E for the hearing. Firstly we were each given a £1 coin as we entered. It then began with an introduction of the panel. Artist Jeremy Deller, art historian Anebella Pollen, Idler editor Tom Hodgkinson, economist Ann Pettifor, and Vice journalist Clive Martin. Each would be given the opportunity to give their take on the question at hand, Why Did The K Foundation Burn A Million Quid?
The presentations were all equally interesting as they were varied. From a work of conceptual anti market art, an act of magik, the removal of a debt owed to the K Foundation by the Bank Of England, the desire to simply rid themselves of the money to an early prediction that money would hastily lose its worth over the 23 years and that destroying it in the manner they did is no more a crime or waste than how many of us use it and see it now. I wish I could go into more detail in all but I wouldn’t do them justice, or get any sleep.
After the presentations came the witness statements, starting with the show stealing appearance of Gimpo. Aside from enchanting us with a hysterical first hand account of the 23rd of August 1994, its lead up and consequential events including a momentary desire to knick fifty grand of the million and how he later abandoned Drummond and Cauty on their screening tour seemingly just because he really liked the van they had planned to push of a cliff he then went on the blow our minds.
He, in a unique fashion, explained that in a way, they never really burned a million quid at all. After the original million had been nailed to wood for Money: A Major Body Of Cash – and forgive me here because I did get a tad confused between the gibberish so I may get some of the details wrong – the money was either returned to the Bank Of England who destroyed it, or it was attempted to be returned to the Bank who said they would have to destroy it as it was no longer legal tender – the K Foundation were then issued with a bill of between £500 – £600 in order for the Bank to reprint the million.
Let that sink in. If this story is indeed accurate or true, was the value of the money only equal to the value of the bill if it was going to simply be reprinted? Also, if the money was the same that was nailed to the wood (I’ll have to do some follow up research) were they burning a million quid or where they burning the art exhibit known as Money: A Major Body Of Cash?
Ultimately it matters not. In fact the whole question as to Why Did The K Foundation Burn A Million Quid? matters not but I’ll come to that later.
Journalist Jim Reid was next to take the stand. Like Gimpo it became apparent that the burning didn’t particularly effect Jim in any profound way, having found it somewhat boring by the end of it and it’s not something he often thinks about. It was quite a shock to hear about how little attention it got at the time. Instead of a barrage of offers for his article, having been a witness to the event, there was nothing. No one seemed to care or simply just preferred to ignore it with a majority of people believing the act to be fake.
KLF publicist Mick Houghton echoed Jim‘s comments that he still believes Drummond and Cauty to be without explanation for the event and remains unable to commit to a reason behind their motivations before The K Foundation Burn A Million Quid author Chris Brook gave an insightful retelling of his involvement with them on the disastrous screening tour and the reactions they were presented with.
A group of people who where at the Liverpool screening, well two of them at least, gave their recount of that night and of how it evolved into a heated event of high emotions, resulting in both anger for some and inspiration to others whilst questioning why the art world is so very opposed to The K Foundation. This was expertly picked up on by the panel who explained that firstly they have always been and likely will always be seen as outsiders by the art world, so as other artists have done similar things in recent years to much acclaim it is not something they are likely to bestow upon the duo.
Ann Pettifor went on to highlight that the current evolution of art is that of collateral. How works are being produced, purchased and treated as collateral instead of works of art with the K Foundation having done quite the opposite. Her point hit home with the crowd who responded with an overwhelming ovation.
The strongest applause of the night was saved for Jeremy Deller who came out with the beautiful line, “But we all know there’s no greater work of art than a perfect pop song.”
Scottish reporter and witness to the contract signing 23 years ago Craig McClane gave a history of one of the maddest 24 hours in art history, if not history in general, from the first night of the screening tour in Glasgow that went so badly it ended with them pushing the now infamous contract aka car off the cliff of a natural beauty spot – and live firing range.
Finally John Higgs was warmly welcomed to the stage to give, in my opinion, the most accurate argument of the night of which I will give my take now. The Why? doesn’t matter. What matters is what has followed in the 23 years since and how we have come to this event. Why? Because they were compelled to. What caused the compulsion is something that cannot be explained so simply with one answer. Using the words of Robert Anton Wilson he simply says that some things are truths, some things are false, some things are meaningless, somethings are the combination of two or even all. There is no one answer.
Every argument given tonight had its merit and could easily be true. It doesn’t make them the truth or any truer than the last. We were here for a reason though and that was to vote on the truth.
After a brief summation of each of the points buckets were passed around, one for each option, into which we would vote with the £1 we were given upon entering. Some how the winning vote still ended up in pounds and pence (and a token to the Marina) but the method still worked. A successful verdict could only be reached if it gained at least 23% of the vote.
I did not vote. I abstained. By the end of the presentations the summations of each had somewhat merged together. Two or three of the options were very similar. I also agreed with John Higgs too much about it not mattering and that there was no one answer. Before long we had the verdict.
A majority of at least 23% had been reached. It was in favour of Anebella Pollen‘s reasoning. The JAMS were beckoned to the stage to receive the verdict.
Why Did The K Foundation Burn A Million Quid?
In a deep historical tradition of weirdness.
And now we know.
Jimmy and Bill‘s response? “Whatever”.
Perfect. I couldn’t have hoped for a better response. In reflection I’m pleased with the verdict too. Essentially we’re just saying “Because they’re weird” and that’s a good enough reason in my book and we avoided another 23 year moratorium.
That being said in my mind the moratorium has not ended and continues on, because The K Foundation have still refrained from talking about it themselves. They gave no additional information this evening as was expected and gave no response to it. In fact they were more concerned as to whether they were or were not now supposed to burn Gimpos van.
All in all the contract is over, they got the response that they were unable to solicit 23 years ago and now a new age beckons us, The Dark Ages!
To follow Vicky’s KLF experience between entries and bug her loads follow her on Twitter and Instagram @vxpeax
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