I’m a fanboy, that’s the truth.
I’ve always been captivated by everything that the KLF, (K foundation, K2 Plant Hire, JAMS, Bill
and Jimmy) have ever done.
My first huge euphoric rave was soundtracked by What time is Love? The first argument I ever had about art was over the burning of a million quid.
By the way, yes, they actually did, and they also simultaneously deleted their musical back
catalogue which cost millions more, and I am still having the argument with people about whether it should have been spent on hospitals or charity.
It should not; money is illusory and the burning of it is powerful magick.
I have managed to stalk my way into a literary collaboration with Bill Drummond, before realising
you enter Bill’s world, not the other way round. Bill marches to the beat of his own internal drum,
although I do have the sad but thrilling privilege of being appointed his official undertaker should
death ever be brave enough to take him on.
He’s leaving it to us. We’ve plans.
As for Jimmy, the younger, more taciturn of the duo, overshadowed in the past by Bill’s more
obvious, flamboyant Old Testament ranter style madness, but no less influential in their chaotic
machinations, I had followed him as he pursued his dark obsessions, his Riot in a Jam Jar, The
Cautese National Stamps which nearly resulted in prosecution by the Crown, The Armchair
Destructivists, a collaboration with his now wife, former Thomson Twin Allanah Currie.
And then came Dismaland.
So misunderstood and misrepresented by the press, both television news and broadsheet, who
only saw the name Banksy and knew the Pavlovian response to make, it was so much darker, so
much more moving, so much funnier than I had expected. Over eighty artists gave us their vision of our increasingly bleak world.
It was not for the faint hearted, but with international press, and an entrance fee of just three quid, there was plenty of the faint hearted there. Ordinary holidaymakers in Weston Super Mare, people who ‘didn’t do art’ queued up with the hipsters.
And they marvelled, and stared, and their hearts must have sunk and risen like mine, tears and
fears rising unbidden at the cartoonish portrayal of the global meltdown we’re all too close to to
focus on, the elephant in the room suddenly appearing, huge and stomping, swaying with captivity psychosis, straining at his rusty leg irons.
And in one of the buildings housing the artists was The Aftermath Dislocation Principle, a vast
dystopian ‘model village’ in 1:87 scale, of a square mile of what is described as Bedfordshire, but is clearly anywhere in the South East.
Flyovers, tower blocks, retail parks, McDonalds, scrubland, all meticulously assembled without a
stone or bit of stubble out of place, except there is no-one present but Police and emergency
service, around 5000 of them I think.
It’s Jimmy’s train set, the logical conclusion to being given a model of the Somme made by his
father for Christmas, aged eight.
Conscript a man and he will die in a futile battle. Give a man a model of said battle, and he will
create a vast dystopian diorama that will freak everyone out for life.
Something awful has happened: a nuclear attack, a Police coup, a dirty bomb, a civil disobedience of enormous proportions, who knows, but it’s bad.
Yet the Police seem, well, delighted. Bored, mischievous, plotting or just pissing around.
Some are still clearly functioning as Police, some have gone rogue, some are surrounding ominous craters in bio hazard suits, some are hitting golf balls into the abyss, some are driving trucks into Burger King, some are setting up gallows.
It is chilling, prescient, funny and incredibly, mindblowingly detailed. Obsessional doesn’t even
begin to cover it.
But Dismaland closed as that summer ended, it’s unpalatable truths about corporate evils, global
warming forced migration, architecture designed to control us in our own cities rather than enhanceour use of them well and truly told. It’s job done, bitter pills swallowed whole.
But The Aftermath Dislocation Principle was not.
Assembling and dissembling it was clearly an arduous task, and the thought of it returning to L13, the workshop Jimmy Cauty shares with others like Billy Childish with it once more must have seemed one giant leap backward, not to mention probably a colossal reappropriation of a shared space.
Jimmy once said ‘Design the poster first, then reverse engineer the project to fit.’
So in that spirit, the installation was sawn up into different fragments and placed in shipping
containers, with hundreds of glass fitted peepholes installed at various heights.
It looks like it’s been sprayed with machine gun fire, except at night, when the thousands of
carefully synchronised flashing blue lights make it look like it contains an alien spacecraft.
A map of the British Isles was produced, and the word Riot in bold font printed from top to bottom. If your town was covered by the font, and you could prove an historical riot had happened there, then the Aftermath Dislocation Principle roadshow might come to you.
Jimmy Cauty moved to Totnes as a young lad. Went to Kevvic Comprehensive, hung out at
Dartington with all the cool rich kids, smouldering with slight resentment that his parents couldn’t
afford to send him there, before leaving to draw Athena’s best selling poster after Tennis arsegirl: Gandalf, play heavy metal with a series of bands, invent Stadium rave and become an art terrorist of heroic proportions. He was always going to come back here.
Other places on the tour were either efficiently organised by together art organisations like Bruton Art Factory, or blocked by panicky councils who balked at the mention of a tour with Riot in the title. None we’re organised by undertakers moonlighting as culture jammers, but that’s what a lifetime steeped in the KLF mythos does to you.
The tour encompassed places like Orgreave, site of the brutal finishing off of the miners whole
way of life by the Metropolitan Police, the battle of the beanfield, a similar routing of the Peace
convoy, Toxteth, St Pauls, Tottenham, Brixton, places where serious civil disturbances had
To be frank, this could encompass almost all of the British Isles, and luckily for us Totnes had
experienced the Bread Riots which swept around Britain in the 1800’s.
Each place on the tour was asked to produce a booklet describing the riots to contextualise it.
Everyone had played it quite straight so far, but the KLF were nothing if not Discordians, High
Pranksters, so I asked if the riots had to be real. The resulting pamphlet has confused, infuriated, amused and not amused in equal measure, but a local historian told me I had grasped the Genius Loci of the town, and that will do for me.
The placing of the container was both practical and symbolic: Longmarsh Carpark. Big enough to get a 60 ft articulated lorry with a 40ft shipping container on it safely in, and poised between two contentious building developments.
Drawn by the approaching weirdness, two crop circles appeared on either side of the river in line
with the installation. Clearly word had got out.
The arrival day was hot, stressful and tortuous, memorable and exciting in all the right ways.
Those who say never meet your heroes are generally wrong in my experience. Jimmy was
engaging and generous, funny and humble enough to let the whole thing unfold in a seemingly
completely collaborative manner. I don’t think I’ll be asked to join the Rowing Club though.
He was excited to be back home, and when the installation eventually arrived, six hours after it was expected, not only was almost his entire family there, but it felt like so was the town.
Bizarre Rituals played It’s Grim Up North, one of the KLF’s hits, as two cranes at either end of the lorry lowered the swaying container onto the car park under a full moon and to a baying crowd. It was like Close Encounters.
And there it was. Difficult to get to at first through the throng of excited people, others raving until their turn came, and it stayed for four nights, exciting some, giving other unquiet dreams, but all were entranced by the skill involved.
For me, spending four nights turning on the generators with help from Katie Tokus and Chris
Booth, explaining or rather, unexplaining it to passers by, mulling over scenarios, peering for hours through the peepholes, handing out my spurious pamphlets, I fell under it’s extraordinary
perspective stretching spell. Some were undoubtedly brought down by its bleak vision. “Why do we have to keep telling these dark narratives?” someone said to me, but my interpretation is
Like everything that Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond have done, it is magick disguised as art.
Magick with a K to distinguish it from the illusions of Paul Daniels and his ilk.
Possibly all art is this, it’s certainly interchangeable, but I believe that Jimmy has cast a powerful
spell in miniaturising this all too possible future/now.
It is enclosing it, making us the puppeteers, creating a bewitched snowglobe that places us outside of the matrix. It names the totalitarianism starting to squeeze us like a python, and naming anything gives us some power over it.
And walking home each night, through our neon lit streets, I would both grow and shrink like Alice, unsure whether I was huge and the world is small, or whether I had been shrunk, and the sky above me was corrugated steel.
He’s justified and he’s ancient, and he drives an ice cream van.