It was a revelation. Nobody saw it coming. I heard speculation around various thoughts as to what was going on but not one volunteer offered this idea up…
On Friday 25th August, 2017, The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu revealed to the world that they now have a responsibility as undertakers!
The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu are building a pyramid.
The pyramid is to be called The People’s Pyramid.
The People’s Pyramid is going to be twenty-three feet high.
Made up of twenty-three steps.
The People’s Pyramid will be made from brick.
34,592 household bricks.
Each of these bricks will contain the cremated ashes of a willing individual.
The People’s Pyramid is to be built in Toxteth.
Toxteth is an area of Liverpool.
And typically, it fired the responses that these guys always seem to get now. Is this real? Why? It very much appears to be real – ‘volunteers’ are confirming that purchased bricks have been debited on their bank cards. The project is a collaboration between The JAMs and The Green Funeral Company and shall be known as CCC&D. The architects for the towering tomb are Paul Sullivan in partnership with Jonathon Woodward and Ste Thorpe. H.G. Matthews supply the bricks (they made The Brick that contains ashes from the K Foundation’s burning of £1,000,000 of their own money). All seems pretty legit…
Which leads us to this bonus event. Many people were absent. Originally, just three days were announced but this presentation was added nearer the start time of proceedings. The itinerary that we all received at the beginning of the ‘situation’ only stated:
Saturday 26th of August 2017
11:00 – The conceptual architect Paul Sullivan will explain things.
Until now, this really had meant very little to all who had signed up.
As I arrive at the Dead Perch Lounge for the last time, I am greeted by another revelation…
These look pretty official. But those questions arose again. Is this real? Why? Rumour has it that Cauty and Drummond had nothing to do with these posters. The timing seems odd, the focus of the day is on The People’s Pyramid – so why announce this at the same time? Also, would these guys really cry poverty? Or claim stupidity? That seems unlikely from what we know of their characters and achievements. The argument against is that they were unsatisfied with the outcome of the public hearing on Wednesday and felt a need to put things right. The placement is clever too – literally on the walls of the venue that has been the central hub of the project. More posters appeared elsewhere in the city too. In reality, these proved a distraction, the new project opens up a new world and deserves to be the focus of proceedings…
Once inside, the embargoed merchandise is on sale (though I do not see the Dead Pirch Koffin). Added to the collection are the Kagool, Badger Kull Graduation Ball Poster and the People’s Pyramid Poster.
I head downstairs and await the presentation. We kick off slightly late and it is evident that many of the now ‘Graduates’ are not in attendance. There is nowhere near 400 people in here, in fact, there is less than 100. Paul Sullivan takes to the stand (and by stand I mean a box or chair) and commences but with no amplification equipment it is difficult to project across the room. Paul proceeds to explain what the pyramid is and how it will be constructed. There are a number of technical drawings on display behind him that he references as he moves along the wall.
It becomes apparent that the monument will be erected in Toxteth and their will be a ‘Toxteth Day Of The Dead’ every year on 23rd November. When this day falls, all the bricks of the deceased from the past year will be added to the structure. And by the way ‘Mumufication’ is the act of having a small portion of your cremated ashes fired in a Brick of Mu. There will also be a ‘Toxteth Book Of The Dead’ to record entries of those who will be / are entombed.
Sullivan informs us that the design of The People’s Pyramid is based on a sketch by Cauty and Drummond. From what I understand, this idea, in some form, has been floating around the duo for several years.
The brief presentation ends with us been informed that there is a visual representation of the work in an adjoining room. A couple of questions on technical specs and precise location of the pyramid follow. Neither question can be answered. The first is the question in regard to how long will it take to build. We would need to know how many people who bought bricks would definitely die each year to arrive at that answer. The second query reveals that a location has not yet been secured but the process is underway and it will be in Toxteth.
Jimmy and Bill are present and spend time signing Graduation Certificates. Is this anyway for the alumni to start their adult lives? Contemplating on death and how they should consider this alternative burial…
The challenge that many face with Bill and Jimmy, is that they have an internal conflict with them. We know them primarily for their music – and that set a stereotype. They then became ‘artists’ and famed for that money thing but our earlier impression is the dominating factor. However, this latest version of The JAMs is what they do best – art that challenges convention, makes us question our beliefs and treads a path in a new direction…
And in some ways, there have been clues all week…
At News From Nowhere, our protagonists arrived in an Ice Kream Van and in the back… a coffin (they also sell Koffins now in this new project, and the vehicle has been converted into a hearse and is available for hire in that guise).
The ‘2023’ book cover contains a… pyramid.
At Constellations, everybody was given a job – for a short period of time, they had a new role and a new identity. This was a rebirth for each individual. And the JAMs are masters of reinvention – initially of themselves, but now of us too…
At The Black-E, the age old debate of burning a million pounds was addressed. When we walked into the room, what was on the screen? A brick.
At The Bombed Out Church. Yes – we convened at a church. A religious institution. The parallels to what they are now asking of us are evident. Furthermore, death and reincarnation in another form were symbolised on this day when two copies of ‘2023’ were destroyed to enable each page to be reimagined by the newly designated page holders. Now with the pyramid, our physical form will be transformed to brick and contribute to a public community shrine. In the future editions of the novel, each volunteer name will appear on a page – side-by-side. In the pyramid, like-minded souls will be placed – side-by-side.
At The Florrie all the volunteers were transformed with face paint and robes, a hymn was sung, coffins were carried, a procession marched and a pyramid shaped funeral pyre was lit. This was the height of religious ceremony filled with symbolism that has defined the ages.
At The Graduation Ball, Badger Kull played one song – ‘Toxteth Day Of The Dead’. We now know that this directly relates to the day the bricks will be added to the pyramid each year. For the band, it was their only live show. The band were withdrawn from existence after a three minute performance. The word ‘cull’ – especially when next to the word ‘badger’ has clear themes of selected death. However, another use of ‘cull’ is to ‘select from a group’. Perhaps this new project for The JAMs as undertakers hopes to attract like-minded people to let their resting place be the Toxteth tribute…
Also at The Graduation Ball, the screening of the world premier of the full 69 min directors cut of ‘2023: what the fuuk is going on?’ (if this was indeed the visuals shown prior to Badger Kull) contained endless Pyramid imagery.
After all that has happened, are Drummond and Cauty now asking us to reconsider our traditions around death, burial and ritual?
It certainly appears so.
Do artists have a right to do that?
Why not? (Finally – we are no longer asking them ‘Why?’)
The deeper you dig, it appears that this project is no surprise at all. The JAMs have always been alternative thinkers in their work. Surely, for the pair of people who burned a million pounds (and note that nobody has done it since or burned a bigger amount since – think about that), turning their attention to the end of the life journey is a natural progression (and we are all way older than when we discovered their work). Are there not parallels in the subject matter too? Changing form. Removal from existence. Challenging society’s norms.
And these guys are seasoned in the art of dying – how many guises have they worked under and then left behind? They deleted their music catalogue. They burned copies of banned records. The list goes on…
And lets look at what they are proposing. Is there not something beautiful about being a part of an evolving artwork? Is there not something beautiful about being placed side-by-side with like-minded peers? Is there not something beautiful about allowing your physical form to transform and be part of a wonderful towering structure? What are the other current options – most commonly they are ash or underground burial. Why not bring death – something none of us can avoid into architecture and art and be a modern physical representation that can serve as an inspiring reminder of the legacy of those within?
Many questions will arise from The People’s Pyramid…
How exactly will existing religions feel about this? Will they accept it?
Will your loved ones support you if choose to become mumufied?
Is this actually a Kult?
Is this type of structure a better solution in terms of land usage compared to cemeteries?
Is mumufication a better option for legacy rather than ash as this has a physical and visual value to it?
Can this creation work to act as a way of unity in death rather than the solitude of a coffin or ones ashes?
Whatever your thoughts, you have to entertain what Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty are doing here. Once again they are blurring the boundaries of art and life (and death too). Once again they are making us ask questions of ourselves. Once again they are pushing the boundaries of convention.
It looks like they may well be trying to make death a little bit more beautiful than the current alternatives. Shouldn’t they be applauded for that at the very least? And on another level, to create such a stunning piece of community art in this way, is something that they really should be immortalised for (just like those who will be immortalised in a new way within The People’s Pyramid) in the art world and beyond, right? This really is SIGNIFCANT as a body of work – it must be explored, debated, discussed and given coverage.
It has been an incredible experience at ‘Welcome To The Dark Ages’. 400 lucky souls experienced it but the world needs to know about this special work now…
Why? Reason Photo courtesy of: A. Harwood
Pyramid Progression Photo courtesy of: P. Wilkinson
Pyramid Sketch Photo courtesy of: P. Wilkinson
The People’s Pyramid Poster Photo courtesy of: P. Wilkinson
Pyramid of Televisons Photo courtesy of: A. Harwood
Addendum: There is a website where you can sign up for the pyramid at www.mumufication.com. Sadly, the boys missed a trick with the checkout process – they opted for ‘Basket’ in the navigation, rather than ‘Casket’.