A common complaint about modern art is that it’s lazy, pretentious and usually results in something any random person on the street could have made by tossing a half eaten Big Mac at a canvas with enough force. A popular rebuttal to which is “you just don’t understand” which is true for at least one bit of performance art titled K Foundation Burn a Million Quid which, as the name suggests, saw a group who called themselves the K Foundation setting fire to a million British pounds for absolutely no reason other than, fuck it, they could.
Founded by two influential avant-garde British musicians called Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond, the K Foundation was founded as an excuse for the pair to express themselves creatively following their dramatic departure from the music industry. Something we say because the group, the known as The KLF, infamously quit music forever after winning a Brit Award in the 1990’s, though not before pretending to shoot the audience, throwing a dead sheep at the judges and then deleting their entire back catalogue.
Well known for their eschewing of established musical norms, the band, despite being one of the best-selling groups in the world immediately prior to their retirement, refused to do things like tell people when their new albums were coming out. Preferring to instead graffiti over other artists billboards or put cryptic, full-page messages in newspapers and shit.
As the K Foundation the pair’s stated goal was simply to continue expressing themselves but an apparent second goal was to erase any trace of their previously achieved success The KLF. First by, as mentioned previously, deleting their back catalogue but then by making a concerted and some would say heroic effort to spend literally every penny they’d earned as a band.
While this was pretty easy when the pair were touring, with them reportedly making a point of spending as much as possible on their shows to eat up as much of their potential profits as possible. However, after they stopped touring the money kept rolling in from royalties and the like – Earnings the pair decided to, quite literally, throw away – With the duo creating numerous art installations basically consisting of nothing but large amounts of cash being in the process of being destroyed. The most notable example of which being an art piece which consisted of tens of thousands of pounds nailed to a wall, which the couple cheekily put up for sale for half the stated value of the cash used to make it.
Anyway, arguably the most infamous stunt undertaken by the K Foundation is when they set £1 million (an amount which represented literally every penny the two had accrued during their career up to that point) ablaze on a small Scottish island. Which begs the question, why? A question we can’t really answer because the duo have never given a straight answer about what their thought process was and in fact, actively refused to talk about doing it for decades.
Now your first though is probably “they did it to be pretentious snobs and make some arty farty point about the real value of money” right? Well, no because although they did record themselves burning the money, Cauty destroyed all the tapes like two days later on a whim. This said, a copy did survive because the guy who filmed it kept one to himself without telling anyone and in it you can plainly see that neither man gives a shit and in fact, looks bored as they feed hundreds of thousands of pounds to the flames.
It’s also worth noting that the pair burn the money on a small island in the middle of bum-fuck nowhere and never told anyone about it. In addition, when either man has been convinced to talk about the burning and their reasoning for doing it, their usual response is to shrug, laugh or ignore the question.
Which leaves us with no real answer for you, our lovely audience, about why the burning took place and can instead only inform you that it did and nobody seems to know why.