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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Saturday, September 07, 2002
    Don't be fooled by the title
    Mildly creative activity today - putting together a Thanksgiving service for a couple married 25 years, and rewriting the parable of the wedding banquet, Matthew 22, to involve Romeo Beckham and Roy Keane. And engaging with the maveric genius Bill Drummond once again tonight stimulates my perception of just what is possible when creative instincts get free reign.

    Some people hate Drummond - the man who, as The K Foundation, burned a million pounds (yes, he really did). Whose other 'is it art or arrogant posturing?' episodes included distributing 6,250 cans of Tennents Super to the homeless off the back of a truck one Christmas Day, and an abortive attempt to hang two freshly-culled cattle from pylons above the Dartford Bridge (check out the sorry details in his book 45). His schemes could be called reckless (he's called them that) but they appeal to me because (like the Liverpool band he once managed, Echo and the Bunnymen) they're big, bold, unsure, provocative and ridiculous. Misguided perhaps but above all, honest endeavours.

    His latest is described in How to be an Artist which I picked up in the Tate Liverpool shop today. It describes his becoming bored with Richard Long's A Smell of Sulphur in the Wind, a photograph of an Icelandic stone circle which he bought for $20,000 in 1995. Drummond narrates his resultant June 2000 odyssey, a tour from Southampton to Dounreay with regular stops to make a sales pitch to sell the artwork. His plan was to take $20,000 in cash, empty this money into a strongbox, bury the box at the centre of the Icelandic stone circle, photograph the scene, frame it and hang it on his bedroom wall where the Long original had been, giving it the title A Smell of Money Underground.

    It's a travelogue of many encounters, with many musings along the way about life, nationalism, identity and art. Perhaps the pivotal question is the one posed to him one night in a venue at the heart of all things, The Hub cafe, Berry Street, Liverpool, by a woman who asked him, "Mr Drummond, are you trying to be an artist?"

    I love all this because it's so far away from Saachi and that sort of 'art scene'. Perhaps his journey is pretentious in a different sort of way but it's done in a jeep among folk and in places well away from sophistication. It's a dialogue; and it's wholehearted.

    No-one bought Long's picture off Bill Drummond so at 4am on 14 August 2001 he took a Stanley knife to it and cut it into 20,000 pieces, 11.2mm by 4.05mm, which he is now selling at a dollar each. Once I've finished the book (I jumped the third quarter so as to blog this tonight) I'll be sending off my pound coin to claim my piece, and eagerly awaiting the next episode of his travels.