Comic Pranksters or Guerilla Interventionists? Why would anyone from a Scheme (or an ESTATE as they pump it up down there) scheme to burn a million quid? Neil Cooper lets loose on Jimmy Cauty’s installation ESTATE and all the music and art and film around it which is coming your way…
A Grand Scheme
When Jimmy Cauty’s new installation is offloaded from the back of a lorry beside an Edinburgh community based arts centre over the next month, one might arguably see its arrival as a tale of two cities. This is the case even before it does something similar in Glasgow the following month, when worlds might collide some more.
ESTATE is Cauty’s high-rise based dystopian model village housed in a 40-foot shipping container. The construction consists of four 2-metre high tower blocks built at 1:24 scale, each containing what its website blurb describes as ‘amusing scenes of mass social, economic and environmental devastation.’
Built by Cauty over two years, each of ESTATE’s tower blocks serves a different function. Tower Block 1, Iceni Heights, contains ‘residential Live-Work-Die units’; Tower Block 2, HM Prison Camp Delta-Zulu, is a multi-storey high security children’s prison; Tower Block 3, Roman Point, houses a high-rise care home ‘for the old, the dying and the dead’; and Tower Block 4, aka Watch Tower 4, ‘seems to have been some kind of spiritual centre for neo-pagan misbehaviour’.
If the potential narratives conjured up from these descriptions weren’t enough, each of the 1,360 rooms in the blocks have been built from scratch before being ‘meticulously vandalised’. Viewers are able to observe this for themselves during booked-in viewings that allow them to observe and explore each tower block in close-up. As individuals or social bubble groups walk through the container under pandemic induced social distancing restrictions, they will experience smoke, strobe lights, wind and other assaults on the senses emanating from the lost civilisation the four blocks inhabit.
Two years in the making, ESTATE forms the third and final part of a trilogy of works by Cauty. The series began with A Riot In A Jam Jar (2011-2013), and was followed by The Aftermath Dislocation Principle (2014-2016). A Riot In A Jam Jar saw Cauty create 58 models of scenes from riots of both the past and the future, each one built to 1:87 scale and contained inside a jam jar. With titles including Horse ATTACK! – Poll Tax Riot 1990, A Skip Full of Revolutionary Clowns, and The Killing of Banksy, Cauty’s small-scale re-enactments took the idea of Airfix kit style memorials of historic battles to grotesque extremes.
Many of the models feature baton-wielding coppers wielding down on protestors. One, Tomlinson Before Death, ramps up the brutal reality each model stems from. Larger scenes such as STUDENT RAGE – Fees Riot, Parliament Square 2010, and NEW TYBURN: The Ritual Hanging of Nick Clegg, are epic in scale, at times resembling the paintings of Delacroix, reconstituted for a more contemporary revolutionary spirit.
First seen as an exhibition in 2011, a decade on, what Cauty called in the exhibition catalogue ‘a mantelpiece ornament for the twitter generation’ now appears even more troubling than it did then. As Cauty wrote in his introduction, ‘These tiny acts of violence serve as snap shots of a greater and vastly more complex reality.’
The Aftermath Dislocation Principle (2014-2016) developed this by way of a full-blown model village depicting the fallout of an apocalyptic demonstration of civil disobedience, its cause unspecified. With ADP’s future-shock narrative set somewhere in the ‘vast dystopian inter-zone’ of Bedfordshire, the only survivors of the carnage appear to be the 3000 riot police in attendance at the ‘charred and looted aftermath’.
Again built at 1:87 scale, The ADP was shown in 2015 at Banksy’s Dismaland theme park in Weston Super Mare. In 2016, it was loaded up inside a shipping container, in which the scenes could be viewed through a series of peepholes from outside. ADP then embarked on a tour of more than 36 places notable as sites of riots and civil disobedience of historical significance.
In Edinburgh, it took up residence in the Grassmarket, close to where what became known as the Porteous Riots of 1736 took place. This saw Edinburgh’s town guard John Porteous face the justice he had previously thwarted when the people hanged him. In Glasgow, ADP parked up at Easterhouse based arts centre, Platform, and highlighted Bloody Friday, or The Battle of George Square of 1919. This occurred after striking workers arguing for a 40-hour working week were baton-charged by police, with the army in attendance
Seen through the windowed expanse of the peepholes, The Aftermath Dislocation Principle’s assorted scenarios resembled set designs for a very English form of disaster movie. Again, given recent events, these seemingly fantastical scenes look closer to reality by the day.
The arrival of ESTATE into Edinburgh and Glasgow completes Cauty’s trilogy of works with an even more detailed depiction of dystopia. The current UK tour of ESTATE is being conducted under social distancing regulations introduced since the rise of the still ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. As lockdowns are gradually lifted – for now, at least – the arrival of ESTATE chimes with an uncertain looking so-called new normal.
Meanwhile, North Edinburgh Arts, the community owned centre providing the site for ESTATE’s Edinburgh stop off, is at the centre of an ongoing transformation of the city’s Muirhouse and Pennywell district. Historically at the sharp end of housing and social provision, the area is currently in the thick of major developments to reimagine the area anew.
This is akin to how Easterhouse and Platform, which Cauty and co will revisit with ESTATE after Edinburgh, has developed, with regeneration and renewal rather than gentrification at the fore of future visions for both areas.
Taking ESTATE to North Edinburgh Arts, Platform and other centres like them is a key part of the project. In keeping with the project’s loose guidelines, it was important to move out of the city centre’s pretty façade, and to try and engage with a community in the throes of its own creative transformation.
Under the auspices of North Edinburgh Arts, numerous community groups will be visiting ESTATE. These include members of a local writers group, who previously had a collection of their written responses to life under lockdown during the pandemic published in print and online as Writing the Times. The Edinburgh hosts of ESTATE plan to showcase the group’s responses to ESTATE on their website. Something similar is planned for students at the nearby Craigroyston High School
By coincidence, in the run up to ESTATE’s Edinburgh residency, an exhibition by Keith Farquhar – Shelfstackers – opened in Gallery Malmo, an artist-run space open since 2018 in a former supermarket housed in a block close to North Edinburgh Arts. North Edinburgh Arts itself has reopened post-lockdown, and is set to host outdoor shows as part of Edinburgh International Children’s Festival.
As ESTATE’s dystopian vision is offloaded next to North Edinburgh Arts, such parallel spectacles of creativity might be seen as a diptych of two very different visions of the future sitting side by side.
Full disclosure, I am one of the ad hoc collective ‘amusingly’ known as the Society of Spectacles, who are ESTATE’s Edinburgh hosts in association with North Edinburgh Arts. This came about after various friends responded to what official art circles might refer to as an open call. This call-out came from L-13 Light Industrial Workshop, producers of ESTATE, The Aftermath Dislocation Principle, A Riot In A Jam Jar and other works by Cauty. I was drafted in by the two original Edinburgh hosts shortly after they signed up to take it on.
One of the things I’ve ended up doing is to write an essay in response to some of the things raised by ESTATE. This essay appears in SPECTACLE, the programme / publication put together by SOS to coincide with the Edinburgh residency. If you’re not into that sort of nepotism, there are new works in there too by proper authors Gordon Legge and Laura Hird – their first for donkeys’ years – plus artwork by Alex Allan.
Best of all, SPECTACLE has got an interview with Jimmy Cauty in it, so you should probably try and get hold of a copy just for that. We did the interview by email, and the answers are really good. I wanted to ask about the use of the word ‘estate’ in a Scotland based context, whereby estates are called schemes, while the word also has associations with land ownership, but was vetoed by the others. No matter. I’d nicked the observation off Stephanie Knight, who runs the writers group, so it wasn’t my idea, anyway.
Despite all that, and despite a few schoolboy errors, I think SPECTACLE is well worth getting. Oh, and we also made an ESTATE Edinburgh Spotify playlist. Plug over.
The Inevitable Bit – Oh. K.
In the unlikely event I’m ever asked to take part in one of those My Favourite Piece of Scottish Art type articles that people quite rightly seem to love, I’ll almost certainly choose K Foundation Burn A Million Quid (1994). For younger readers, this was an action undertaken by on the island of Jura, when Cauty and Bill Drummond were filmed in a disused boathouse setting fire to one million pounds sterling in cash.
The money, they said, was what they had left over from their audacious infiltration of the pop charts at various points as The Timelords, The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu and The KLF. After scoring a Number 1 as The Timelords with Doctorin’ the Tardis (1988), smash hits that followed included What Time is Love? (1990), 3AM Eternal (1990), and Justified and Ancient (1991). Cauty and Drummond left the music business with a flourish after Drummond fired blank bullets from a machine gun into the audience of the 1992 Brit Awards after Extreme Noise Terror had accompanied them on a decidedly un-Brits take on 3AM Eternal.
All this stuff has been documented a million times, probably best in John Higgs’ book, The KLF: Chaos, Magic and the Band who Burned a Million Pounds (2013), so there’s no real need to go into further details here.
And anyway, I’m not entirely sure I’d be allowed to choose K Foundation Burn a Million Quid as my favourite piece of Scottish art for this non-existent series of articles I haven’t been asked to contribute to. Only one of The K Foundation is Scottish, after all, although the event did take place on Jura. Even better, the deserted boathouse they burnt the cash in was situated in the privately owned Ardfin Estate. This makes my vetoed question to Cauty about the use of the word ‘estate’ in Scotland regarding land ownership kind of justified, I reckon.
But anyway, one of the main reasons I’d choose K Foundation Burn a Million Quid is primarily because of what happened when I showed a bunch of arts journalism students the BBC Omnibus documentary, A Foundation Course in Art (1995). The film charts the run up to and aftermath of the burning, and opens with a rapid-fire round-up of K-related activities leading up to K Foundation Burn a Million Quid.
The KLF’s stadium house rise and wilful fall is there, as is their move into visual art that saw the freshly branded K Foundation double Rachel Whiteread’s money by naming her worst British artist of the year immediately after she won the 1993 Turner Prize. This was for House, a concrete cast of a Victorian house in East London. The film goes on to show footage of the burning itself, as well as the fallout of the event seen in at times uncomfortable fly on the wall close-up as far as the story had gone at that time.
By showing the students the film, which was freely available on YouTube last time I looked, I wanted to try and get a painfully quiet group that lacked confidence thinking about art in terms of value and what that meant. I’d showed them the first couple of episodes of John Berger’s Ways of Seeing (also on YouTube), but getting them to talk about any of the ideas raised by Berger was like pulling teeth.
The response to A Foundation Course in Art was different. The screening was punctuated by a series of audible gasps as it gradually dawned on my normally shy students what exactly was going on. The style of the film will have been a whole lot slower than the quick-cut culture this bunch of nineteen and twenty-year-olds had grown up with, but for once, none of that mattered. Certainly not afterwards, when they couldn’t stop talking and arguing about what they’d just watched. In the main, they sounded as raging mad about it as some people in the film had been two decades earlier, before they were born.
I was shocked by the response, but also delighted. After all this time, it seemed, K Foundation Burn a Million Quid could still have that effect. And that, for me, is why it matters. It’s also why I went on to show A Foundation Course in Art to first year arts journalism students every year for as long as I was doing that stuff.
In the film, Tony Wilson says something with typical largesse about K Foundation Burn a Million Quid being the greatest artistic statement of the late twentieth century. I dunno about that, though it’s a notion I like. What I do know is that, if I ever did get to choose K Foundation Burn a Million Quid as my bit for a Favourite Work of Scottish Art type thing, this is what I’d try and probably fail to say about it in the probably fifty-odd words I had to do it in.
Meet The New Boss
One might argue that K Foundation Burn a Million Quid is an umbilical link in a chain that in the twentieth century began with Gustav Metzger’s notion of Auto-Destructive Art, which he introduced to the world in the early 1960s. This has continued through to the more recent self-destruction of Banksy’s work, Balloon Girl (2002), immediately after being sold at auction.
German-born Metzger developed his ideas about Auto-Destructive Art partly in response to the global damage caused by World War Two, and partly raise awareness to the destruction of old ideas and the ongoing destruction of society. His early displays included Acid action painting (1961), in which painted hydrochloric acid was flung onto nylon canvasses, which dissolved on contact.
In 1966, Metzger was Honorary Secretary of the Destruction in Art Symposium (DIAS) that took place in London in 1966. Chiming with the wave of counter cultural activity that was rising across the city, DIAS participants included Yoko Ono, John Latham and Henri Chopin. One notable influence of Auto-Destructive Art was on The Who’s guitarist Pete Townshend. Townshend studied under Metzger, and channelled his absorbed influence into The Who’s cataclysmic live shows, which frequently saw Townshend smash up his guitar.
Banksy’s public sabotage of Balloon Girl took place in October 2018 at Sotheby’s in London, when, shortly after the painting was sold for £1.04m, a hidden alarm went off inside the picture’s frame. The painting was then put through a shredder, also concealed inside the frame, and partially destroyed. Banksy documented the event on Instagram with a photograph of the shredding accompanied by the words ‘Going, going gone…’ He later justified his action by quoting Picasso by way of Mikhail Bakunin, to the effect that ‘The urge to destroy is also a creative urge.’
The unintended consequence of Banksy’s action was to increase the value of his partially destroyed painting, which was reinvented in its new form as Love is in the Bin (2018). De-monetising art, it seems, remains a mission impossible.
On one level, none of this has anything to do with ESTATE. Cauty is an artist in his own right, just as Drummond is, and all that burning a million quid stuff happened a very long time ago. The duo’s adventures in pop music as stadium house maximalists The KLF and / or The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu go back even further. Neither Cauty nor Drummond have any interest in dwelling on the past, and understandably prefer not to talk about it or be defined by it. And yet…
Live. Work. Die. – Oh. K. Again.
By a strange quirk of fate, synchronicity, whatever, during the period Jimmy Cauty’s ESTATE is in residence in Edinburgh, the first week of June will see Bill Drummond take part in an exhibition to mark the tenth anniversary of the city’s premiere spoken word/music/film night, Neu! Reekie! Taking place at artist Kevin Harman’s Ltd Ink gallery space at what used to be The Old Ambulance Station off Leith Walk, Drummond looks set to share a line-up alongside a host of Neu! Reekie! stalwarts, who come from a mix of music, literary and visual art backgrounds.
This won’t be Drummond’s first Neu! Reekie! outing. He has previously appeared at several events, including as part of the night’s Where Are We Now? weekend intervention as part of Hull UK City of Culture 2017. A launch event for the weekend was held at the city’s New Adelphi Club. The Adelphi is one of the best independent venues in the world. It also hosted the Hull leg of The Aftermath Dislocation Principle, while ESTATE visited there prior to Edinburgh.
What Drummond will be doing at Neu! Reekie!’s tenth anniversary exhibition is anybody’s guess, though anyone who has had their shoes shined by him, had a bed built by him or a cake baked by him will know roughly the sort of good natured everyday engagement they might expect.
Despite lockdown, then, 2021 is proving a lively year for Cauty and Drummond, both separately and together. The year was seen in by the release on Spotify on January 1stof an album called Solid State Logik 1. This is credited to KLF Communications, and was the first of a series under the collective title, Samplecity Thru Trancentral.
The playlist features a collection of KLF and KLF related 7” singles released between 1988 and 1991, from Doctorin’ the Tardis to the Extreme Noise Terror version of 3AM Eternal. Given that all eight tracks had been officially unavailable in any format since being deleted in 1992 following Cauty and Drummond’s departure from the music business, one can imagine the response from those occupying the world of KLF fandom.
Solid State Logik 1 appears to have been officially sanctioned through a group calling itself The KLF Re-Enactment Society, with updates from the group’s website shared on social media by L-13. To date, three more compilations have been released on Spotify. A fifth may or may not have appeared by the time you read this.
Come Down Dawn, released on February 4th, is described as ‘Brooklyn to Mexico City 1990’. The KLF Re-Enactment Society website calls it ‘a Drive by The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu’ with ‘A Drive’ being ‘a journey in the head’. In fact, it is a reworking of The KLF’s 1990 Chill Out album, with the record’s unlicensed samples removed.
Solid State Logik 2, released on March 23rd, features what is described as ‘12” Master Mixes 1989-2017’. These go from the 1989 single, Kylie said to Jason, to Jarvis Joins The JAMS, a version of Justified and Ancient featuring a vocal by Jarvis Cocker. Cocker performed the song live in 2017 at the climax of an event called Welcome to the Dark Ages, more of which anon.
The White Room is a 1989 ‘Director’s Cut’ of The KLF’s fourth and final album of the same name, and features re-edited and remixed versions of tracks from the original record. The KLF Re-Enactment Society describe the Director’s Cut as ‘a version of The White Room that was completed but not released in 1990’.
With missives from The KLF Re-Enactment Society written in wilfully heroic fashion, both these and the Spotify compilations help foster the K Foundation’s ongoing adventures in self-mythology. At a more prosaic level, the compilations not only help keep the prices down for some of the overpriced bootlegs of KLF records in circulation. They also might help earn Cauty and Drummond a few bob in royalties. Which, given how COVID has decimated much of the potential for artists to earn money, is no bad thing.
Welcome to the Dark Ages
This resurrection or re-enactment of K-related activity follows on from Welcome to the Dark Ages (2017), a three-day event held in Liverpool. This saw Cauty and Drummond reunited, as the self-imposed moratorium on talking about K Foundation Burn a Million Quid came to an end.
The event was initially trailed by a poster declaiming ‘2017: WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON’ appearing on a wall in Hackney in January and shared on social media. The clear reference to THE JAMS’ debut album, 1987 (What The Fuck Is Going On?), and Cauty and Drummond’s 1997 performance as 2K, 1997 (What The Fuck’s Going On?) saw some speculate that a new KLF album would be forthcoming.
As it turned out, Welcome to the Dark Ages saw the publication of a novel. 2023: A Trilogy was credited to The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, and was launched at 23 seconds past midnight on August 23rd2017. Cauty and Drummond arrived for the launch at Liverpool alternative bookshop News From Nowhere in an ice cream van, the chimes of which played a mash-up of KLF hits and O Sole Mio.
This ushered in a cavalcade of actions, events and parades in which 400 ticket holders took part. This included a debate titled Why Did The K Foundation Burn A Million Quid?, and the formation of an undertakers business – Callender, Callender, Cauty and Drummond, Undertakers to the Underworld. This aims to create The People’s Pyramid, built from bricks containing 23 grams of human ashes. The first brick laid contained the ashes of Cauty’s brother Simon, who died in 2016. A website – MuMufication – was set up so people can sign up to be interred in a brick as part of the pyramid for £99. Bricks will be laid each year on November 23rd, now dubbed Toxteth Day of The Dead.
As Cauty told the BBC later, “It’s easy to make it sound like a joke, but it isn’t a joke. It’s deadly serious and it’s a long-term project.”
A film, What Time is Death? (2019), made by Paul Duane, documented Welcome to the Dark Ages. Duane made another film, Best Before Death (2019), which charts Drummond’s travails in Kolkata and Lexington, North Carolina as part of The 25 Paintings. This is an epic global tour begun in 2014, in which Drummond visits a different city each year, shining shoes, building beds, baking cakes and ultimately making connections with communities. The tour is set to end in 2025, though the pandemic might have caused things to be extended a year or so.
The Edinburgh premiere of Best Before Death was preceded and followed by a performance of the first and third acts of White Saviour Complex, a play by Drummond. The second act was the film itself. Drummond appeared live for the first and third acts alongside actor Tam Dean Burn. Burn played Drummond. After the film, the pair sold books of the script of White Saviour Complex in the bus stop outside the cinema.
And now, just as Drummond prepares to do something or other as part of Neu! Reekie!’s tenth anniversary shindig, Cauty’s ESTATE is in Edinburgh too, hiding in plain sight as it hits the street.
The Eternal Bit
Before all this current and recent activity, of course, before The K Foundation and The KLF, even, plenty of other stuff happened. Going back even further than back in the day, Cauty did a Lord of the Rings poster for Athena, and Drummond designed the stage set for Ken Campbell’s epic Science Fiction Theatre of Liverpool production of Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson’s SF hippy conspiracy novel, Illuminatus!
Drummond went on to play in Liverpool supergroup in reverse, Big in Japan, co-founded Zoo Records and managed Echo and The Bunnymen and The Teardrop Explodes. While working as a major record label A&R man, Drummond signed the band Cauty was in, Brilliant,
Cauty went on to play a key role in the development of ambient house with Dr Alex Paterson as an original member of The Orb, and until 2005 was a member of art collective, Blacksmoke, with whom he produced the Stamps of Mass Destruction. These were limited edition prints of postage stamps featuring an image of the Queen’s head wearing a gas mask. As reproducing the Queen’s image was in breach of Royal Mail guidelines, unsold copies were eventually passed on to them to be destroyed. Echoes of Gustav Metzger continue to abound.
In 2004, Cauty installed a gift shop at the Aquarium Gallery, Cardiff, selling ‘terror aware’ tea towels and ‘attack hankies’ in response to the U government’s Preparing for Emergencies leaflet. Three years later, Cauty developed Operation Magic Kingdom, a series of images of U.S. troops in Iraq wearing masks of cutesy Disney characters. The images were fly-posted across London.
Again, a lot of this is looked at in much more detail in John Higgs’ book. The reason it’s mentioned here again, I suppose, is to try and help illustrate, in a round-the-houses kind of way, the significance of Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond, separately and together, as artists. While their backgrounds in pop music should never be under-estimated, in terms of social sculpture, they are up there with Joseph Beuys, Gustav Metzger, Jeremy Deller, Banksy and all the rest of the crew.
They are not some eccentric novelty act. Nor are they the sort of comic pranksters they are often dismissed as. Rather, and in radically different ways, Cauty and Drummond are guerrilla interventionists, wilfully exploding their way through the battered frame of the art world that occasionally patronises them, to create possibilities way beyond it.
There may be bags of humour in Cauty’s work, but that doesn’t make him any less serious as an artist, however big a load of bollocks he might think such a statement to be.
In terms of labour alone, just think of all the hours Cauty must have spent by himself building ESTATE. Such intense labour isn’t anything new for artists, of course. But with Cauty left to his own devices for two years, here was an extreme example of bricks and mortar self-isolation before it became the necessary norm.
The first half of this essay’s title is an updated play on the nearest thing to a chorus in Industrial Estate, a song by The Fall. The song appeared on the band’s first LP, Live At The Witch Trials, which came out in 1978. Factory Records boss Tony Wilson said years later something along the lines of how he wasn’t sure he liked The Fall, but for any band who had the balls to sing ‘Yeah! Yeah! Industrial Estate!’, it was the attitude that counted. Despite this, he never signed them. Not that they’d have likely been inclined to do such a thing, anyway, mind, but still.
More recently, Industrial Estate was played at the end of High-Rise (2015), director Ben Wheatley’s film of J.G. Ballard’s 1975 novel of the same name. The film was scripted by Amy Jump, and, as with Ballard’s book, is set in a luxury 1970s tower block where a form of social apartheid exists. Ballard’s story charts the decline into violence between the block’s tenants as civilisation collapses within it.
The soundtrack to Wheatley’s film of High-Rise also features Portishead doing a very Portishead version of Abba’s baroque pop hit, SOS. ABBA’s original was a hit single in 1975, the same year Ballard’s novel was published.
We put Industrial Estate by The Fall on our ESTATE Edinburgh Spotify playlist. It seemed to fit with all the other stuff we’d put on that referenced high rises or gentrification in some way, however obliquely. There are two songs called High Rise there, one by Ladytron, and one by The Trainspotters, which was a novelty punk record by Radio 1 DJ Mike Read, who went on to get Relax by Frankie Goes to Hollywood banned.
Ghosts of Princes in Towers by Rich Kids is on it, as is The View From your Balcony by Pet Shop Boys, and 14thFloor by The TV Personalities. We also chose Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell, because that’s about tearing things down in the name of gentrification. Three songs by Liverpool band, Shack – High Rise Low Life, Who Killed Clayton Square?, and Neighbours – seem to be about the same sort of thing.
The Community of Hope is from PJ Harvey’s album, The Hope Six Demolition Project, which is also in part about encroaching gentrification. Milk Bottle Symphony is from Saint Etienne’s Tales From Turnpike House album, which is set entirely in a high rise.
More laterally, perhaps, we put two tracks by late 1970s/early 1980s band, The Passage – The Shadows, and Lon Don – and a couple of numbers by Talking Heads – Cities, and Life During Wartime. We even stuck Lana Del Rey’s song, Mariners Apartment Complex, on there, though to be honest it doesn’t really have anything to do with ESTATE beyond the title, if at all, but is a brilliant song, anyway, which is as good an excuse as any.
The ESTATE Edinburgh Spotify playlist opens with the theme to Mary, Mungo and Midge, BBC TV’s 1969 children’s animated serial about a little girl who lived in a tower block with her talking dog and a flute-playing mouse. The playlist ends with It’s Grim Up North by The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu. I’m not sure why, but even just it being there was a gift, so why not?
The only track we couldn’t find for the playlist was Portishead’s recording of SOS. This is a shame. Given everything else that’s there, it’s also rather odd.
We totally get that Spotify pays artists a pittance in royalties, however many plays a track might get, but all of Portishead’s back catalogue is on there, as is ABBA’s original. The soundtrack album to High-Rise is on Spotify as well, but that’s only got Clint Mansell’s original stuff he composed for the film. It’s dead good, and we probably should’ve put some of that on the playlist as well, but we didn’t think.
I don’t know why Portishead’s version of SOS isn’t on Spotify. I imagine it’s possibly something to do with all that music business argy-bargy and legalese that saps the soul out of music, and which may have been part of the reason why The KLF deleted their entire back catalogue years ago. Or maybe not. Anyway, even their stuff is on Spotify now by way of the four KLF Communications compilations, so who knows?
The KLF, of course, had fallen foul of ABBA way back, when they were forced to withdraw their album, 1987 (What the Fuck Is Going On?) from sale after sampling Dancing Queen, another hit single by the Swedish Eurovision winners, without permission. Given this history, having records by The KLF on Spotify that haven’t been available for three decades after they were deleted, but not Portishead’s cover of SOS, feels kind of significant somehow. Maybe.
FOOTNOTE – While writing this, I’ve had the Solid State Logik 1 Spotify compilation playing. It was quite a trip. After finishing with the Extreme Noise Terror version of 3AM Eternal, as is Spotify’s wont, algorithms or whatever flipped it straight into Kylie Said to Jason, from Solid Statik 2. This is the sort of thing you expect from algorithms.
After that, however, rather than play another KLF track, it went into Bill is Dead by The Fall. Bill is Dead appeared on Extricate (1990), an album released over a decade on from Industrial Estate. The song presents a much smoother version of the group, which Mark E Smith eventually demolished, only to build it back up again from scratch, rougher and tougher than even Industrial Estate had been.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Utopia
We also made a list of films we thought related to ESTATE somehow. High-Rise was obviously top of the list, and we clearly had to include Fritz Laing’s silent masterpiece, Metropolis (1927), which did something similar in terms of using tower blocks as metaphors for divided cities.
Also in there was the likes of Dekalog (1989), Krzysztof Kieslowski’s series of ten films set around the same Polish housing estate; and Andrea Arnold’s film, Red Road (2006), based around Glasgow’s now demolished Red Road flats.
We also included T. Dan Smith – A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Utopia (1974), an experimental documentary made by photography collective Amber Films. Smith was the flamboyant Newcastle councillor who aimed to regenerate his city, but who ended up serving six years in prison after being found guilty of accepting bribes from architect John Poulson.
A more recent film on the list was Dispossession: The Great Social Housing Scandal (2017), a documentary that explored the legacy of Margaret Thatcher’s Right to Buy Scheme, which enabled council tenants to buy their properties after the scheme was introduced during Thatcher’s first tenure as UK Prime Minister in 1980. Thatcher’s voice, incidentally, is heard at the end of High-Rise, just before Industrial Estate kicks in.
Out of all this, then, ESTATE in Edinburgh, at least, has accidentally evolved into a participatory project. This has been as much the case for us as its hosts as for the assorted communities based in and around North Edinburgh and North Edinburgh Arts.
For us, the publication, playlist and other indulgences have all used ESTATE as a springboard for such extra-curricular activities. This will hopefully be the case too for assorted North Edinburgh communities when they pay ESTATE a visit. All of which is something to build on. This is how revolutions start. Ya es tiempo.
ESTATE is in residence at North Edinburgh Arts, Edinburgh, May 28th-June 26th, Thu-Fri, 10am-4pm, Sat, 10am-1pm. www.northedinburgharts.co.uk; and at Platform, The Bridge, Easterhouse, Glasgow, June 28th-July 30th. www.platform-online.co.uk.
SPECTACLE is available at www.societyofspectacles.co.uk.
Further information on ESTATE can be found at www.l-13.org/projects/jimmy-cauty/estate.
An ESTATE Edinburgh Spotify playlist can be heard here –
Celebrating 10 years of Neu! Reekie!, Ltd Ink, Edinburgh, June 4th-13th. https://ltdinkcorporation.com/News
The KLF Re-Enactment Society can be found at www.klfrs.com
All images by L-13 Light Industrial Workshop