A Scale of Value and Values…

‘Welcome To The Dark Ages’ emphasised the importance of art in our lives. In these times, art in all its forms is integral to how we make sense of the world and evolve within it. The JAMs conducted a creative event unlike any other. This body of work did what truly great art does – it challenged us. Across the extended three days, the volunteers were asked questions about many subjects and in return many questions arose from the newly formed tribe…

Time stretch

Initially ‘Welcome To The Dark Ages’ was billed as a trio of events across three days. However, as the non-festival grew closer, it was announced that a ‘book stamping’ would precede the happenings and then upon exchange of tickets for wristbands, we discovered that another bonus event would occur after on the Saturday morning – a speech from an architect. Whilst the ‘book stamping’ was not an official part of the experience, it was included in the communications to attendees. This was our first value shift – we were sold three events on three days but now we had five across three-and-a-half days. Under promise, over deliver – the JAMs had gifted us additional value at no extra cost. Elements of surprise, changing the script – we were going to get more than we bargained for…

Worth of the entrance fee

Admission was set at £100. Depending on how you measure cost and value, when you compare the fee to other art events, festivals or gigs, it was hard to argue with the price tag. One aspect of attending challenged this though, there was a clause included when credit card details were entered ‘all ticket holders are volunteers’. Wait a minute – we were paying to be ‘entertained’ but we would have to ‘work’ as well? As it turned out, the duties conducted by The 400 were a major part of all aspects of The Dark Ages. In fact, the group participation was crucial to the overall success. This now begged the question, if we are all contributing, why are we paying? Or, where is our salary? Perhaps, this audience inclusion model helped keep costs down for our hosts. Would we willingly have let such a scenario take shape in the everyday world? Whichever way you view it, we all paid to be volunteers – an oxymoron – a masterclass in value challenging from the JAMs…

Authority figures

It is rare that you attend an event where for the majority of proceedings (not just at the start), you are not aware of what is really going on. For the duration of The Dark Ages, many of the volunteers were assigned jobs but were not informed as to the bigger picture their contribution was making. Become a superfan of a band you have never heard? Paint the skulls? Karry a koffin? Pull North for the Second Leg? Bear a brick? What did these roles mean in the grand scheme of things?

The level of blindly following the JAMs’ authority then got deeper. ‘Reposition’ a cone? ‘Borrow’ a shopping trolley? ‘Flypost’ for Badger Kull? Were you instructed to commit a minor felony, not knowing why but trusting the art that it was a part of? Prior to August 25th 2017, would you have fulfilled such a task if it had been directed at you from a different source? Did the dynamics of herd mentality and group membership influence your actions on this occasion?

From accounts given, it was apparent that certain ‘jobs’ were more comfortable for some than others. Despite this, The JAMs had the trust of their following and little disobedience occurred. Maybe when you have a strong love for your heroes, you will trust what they ask of you. This is a slightly romantic idea flipped by the ‘joke’ that attendees had really joined a ‘kult’…

How to find an answer

On Day 1, a private (public) hearing was held to find out why the K Foundation burned a million quid. The pair that committed the act were in attendance but refused to give a reason as they state that they do not know why they scorched the notes and instead they required for us to tell them why they had done it. This was no ordinary way to derive an answer. An expert panel gave their reasons as to why they thought Bill and Jimmy carried out the memorable act and a cast of witnesses expanded the story with their accounts from the time. Could ‘truth’ really be arrived at through such a process? How could any answer hold weight when it was not generated by those behind the act? Was this a parallel to our legal system? Or a comment on recent political voting processes? Could one binary reason really explain the antics of two individuals given the depth and scale of their actions? Was this all just a bit of fun? Had the legacy of the burning just being perpetuated again? Yes, maybe, possibly, a little bit, no.

Found for a £1

The K Foundation have become cemented in art history for their money reductionist episode. The major factor at play was the high value of the cash – £1,000,000 – and the reciprocal worth that we place on it. But did Jimmy and Bill flip this whole notion on its head at the public hearing? Every entrant was presented with a £1 coin but were not told what it was for – we were just instructed not to spend it. As the hearing unfolded, we were then informed by the host, Tom James that the coins would be used by us to vote for the ‘reason’ we felt was the ‘winning answer’. Why was money employed as a voting system? There was no need for currency to be the ballot paper of choice. There are many other ways of reaching diplomatic conclusions. Was this another comment on our political system? A test on our value of money? Yes, maybe, possibly, a little bit, no.

What followed descended into farce. Excess money was entered into select buckets in order to sway the vote. At the other end of the spectrum, many abstained to their financial benefit. An answer was reached but it was not a precise, to the pound amount – further emphasising the corruption that had occurred. Even though many may be outraged by the morality of an act against £1,000,000 – some people’s actions can be influenced by a sum of money as small as £1…

Destroy to create

‘The Day Of The Book’ was a magnificent creative feast seeing destruction, transformation, reinterpretation and rebirth. However, during Day 2, something happened that gripped the group. A replica of Ford Timelord was painted over by Drummond and Cauty. Apparently, they did not have permission to do this. Rumours suggest that the owner had been ‘warned’ not to bring the vehicle but had not adhered. Nevertheless – were The JAMs right to amend the appearance of somebody else’s property? By doing so, would it actually add ‘value’ as a new ‘work of art’ had been created? Another moral, financial and artistic dilemma had arisen. More questions asked…

Secret and mystery

Joe Turner won the ‘mystery trip’ with The JAMs at the end of the performances at The Bombed Out Church. This was the only moment reserved solely for one page holder. Intrigue and envy have arisen since but Joe has kept his cards close. He values the secret of the myth over sharing the story. The JAMs created a fascinating dynamic here. There is so much mystery surrounding them and at times they actively seek to be enigmatic. They have Joe’s trust and Joe has our patience…

A new face for the new you

Day 3…

Have your face painted!

Cry to ‘Justified & Ancient’!

Pull an Ice Kream Van!

Scatter ragwort!

Wear a bright yellow poncho!

Gather by a burning funeral pyre!

Celebrate a perch!

Buy a brick for your ashes to be stored in a pyramid after your death!

Chant: ‘Badger! Badger! Badger! Kull! Kull! Kull!’

Go crazy for a band you have never heard of!

Get a signed Graduation Certificate from Cauty & Drummond!

 

Step back…

 

Out of context, these statements sound crazy…

But in The Dark Ages, these events were normal, special and magical. As your faces were painted to become skulls, your dead selves completed your transformation and led to your graduation. Personal journeys shared through a collective consciousness. Been there – it felt right. The power of The JAMs at a peak once again…

Across the counters

The merchandise on sale ranged from traditional mugs to the rather bizarre, dead perch koffins. All items were priced at £20.23 or in multiples of that figure, apart from one. Copies of the book, 2023 were priced at the RRP of £17.99. An interesting exception – but as this item was technically not official merchandise and also not owned by Dead Perch, maybe the JAMs valued honouring the publishers retail price.

But the other items. A mug, a t-shirt and a poster – all pitched at the same amount. In regular stores, this would seem ludicrous. Clearly, the cost versus perceived value of each of these goods is very different. However, place these in an art setting, with a strong fan base and all of a sudden, pricing becomes very different. Did people buy these items? Virtually all are now sold out on the L-13 website…

Mugs. Did you buy one or become one?…

One intriguing memento was the Starb**ks Flat White cups. Buy one in a cardboard presentation box for £20.23 from Dead Perch Merch or visit the café bar opposite, purchase a coffee for a couple of quid and have your beverage served to you in one of those very cups. Coffee cup or work of art? Depends which cash register you faced…

Furthermore, the unofficial usage / homage to Starbucks by the JAMs raised more questions. The KLF in their various guises have experienced endless bootlegging of their catalogue so are in touch with unofficial products. Starb**ks War Is Over is a theme within the novel 2023 and these cups acted as a physical souvenir of that storyline. There are wide and divided opinions about the Coffee Corporation. Interestingly, a form of morality was enforced when a cease and desist letter arrived at L-13 recently. Even then, the case for ‘parody’ was made by members of The 400. Bill and Jimmy must have been aware that such an outcome for this product line was possible. In terms of their values, the cost of a coffee was probably lucrative both financially and artistically – and they took the risk. The Starbucks response may only serve to make the cups more desirable and assist the legacy of the 2023 storyline. Yet another illogical human response, maybe…

How to say farewell

A huge revelation was when The People’s Pyramid was announced. Instead of following the traditional post-life paths of either burial or cremation, have 23 grams of your ashes included in a brick that will then go on to form a structure made up of the remains of you and your peers in Toxteth. This is quite a radical departure from how we currently look at our passing. Did any of us expect to be questioning this area of our existence when we signed up for The Dark Ages?

Many of the volunteers bought bricks following the announcement by CCC&D. The ideas and concepts have been embraced by a number of attendees. Is there something beautiful about becoming a piece of community architecture that will celebrate the legacy of many in one setting? Are your friends and family ready to accept your wishes if you have signed up to Mumufication? Does this new approach ask questions of the existing religious and non-religious attitudes to death?

Konclusion

In true JAMs style, there can be no set and fixed conclusion to this story. Instead, there are many questions that require exploration of The JAMs, The Dark Ages, 2023 and of ourselves. By attending and being involved, we have been touched by an event that has explored our perceptions, attitudes, beliefs and values around money, art, death, music, media, marketing, consumerism, truth and much more. For many, the environment created, led to them becoming characters in a bigger story, playing abstract roles from their alternative selves, resulting in actions from areas of their personas that are rarely visited. We now have an opportunity to take all of the newly acquired thoughts and learnings forward with us. Will you blindly follow again? Is it right for me to borrow that shopping trolley? Are this band that I have never listened to actually brilliant? Shall I promote something without having a full understanding? Should I buy a coffee or a work of art? If it is a cup of coffee, is it a work of art or is the work of art just a cup of coffee? Are the JAMs incredible artists or gifted comedians? Is it acceptable for my death to become part of an architectural shrine? Are the actions of a tribe influential to my choices and decisions? Will my behaviour be swayed by a large or small amount of money? What is the scale of my values?…

And for all of those questions The JAMs raised, ‘Welcome To The Dark Ages’, in its entirety, may just be one of the most significant and superb artistic bodies of work of recent times…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *