We are active participants in the world and of the world by Iain Macpherson

We welcome a very special guest writer – sculptor, photographer and installation artist, Iain Macpherson, who explores a diverse and wide range of fascinating themes as he breaks down ‘Day 3’ of ‘Welcome To The Dark Ages’.

Follow Iain here.

We are active participants in the world and of the world

The KLF on the “Third Day” achieved accord [of mind and body] there in Liverpool by a comic concession to the body at its most traitorous; ‘Drummond and Cauty asked us to seek a temporal acceptance of physicality by a cathartic exaggeration of its very limitations’.

In other words, by amplifying the physicality of life, the KLF’s awkward, mechanical-seeming gestures reinstate the (usually inferior) ‘body’ side of the mind/body binary. Humour is provoked when the audience realise that Badger Kull have been purposefully overstated in order to highlight the true intermingled nature of the mind and the body; humour is generated from the recognition that the terms ‘mind’ and ‘body’ are illusory and meaningless, as we are all integrated body-subjects.

The essence of the KLF is to appear ugly and to become beautiful. The essence of the KLF is to appear pretty and to become ugly. We do not need genius, but much workmanship and a little taste.

In October 1623, the earl of Lothian wrote to his father, who was at the court in England, to say:

‘The earth hath beane iron in this land (especially in Lothian), and the heavens brass this summer, til nowe in the harvest there hath beane sutch inundations and floodes and wyndes, as noe man living remembers the like. This hath shaken and rotten and carried away the little corne [that] came up, [so] that certainly they [who] are not blynde may see a judgement come on this land.’

The letter expressed the difficulty in meeting the health and safety requirements in the face of the financial demands of the Dark Ages. This was compounded by the economic hardship caused by crop failures and dearths that were ravaging Scotland and Europe at this time. If, then, the universe of natural drift gives rise to ubiquitous KLF machines and gratuitous Beckettian stone-sucking circuits, there is no clear means of distinguishing the functional from the nonfunctional. Of course, if KLF survival determines functionality, then every aspect of a successfully reproducing a KLF life world is functional, no matter how baroque, bizarre, or preposterous it might seem. But this is simply another way of saying that a creature’s activities are embedded in a life world, whether we conventionally label those activities pragmatic or aesthetic, necessary or gratuitous. All that one can say, finally, is that they are part of the same machine, and that somehow the machine works. Figures of Speech: Metaphor and Metonymy.

This apparently simple binary contrast of substitution and combination generates higher degrees of complexity and might be said to account for the imaginative or symbolic use of language – in other words, the possibility of meaningful fictions. For instance: paradigmatic substitution involves a perception of similarity which can generate METAPHOR – “a tower of strength”, “a glaring error” – descriptions that are not literally true. Syntagmatic combination involves a perception of contiguity which can generate METONYMY (naming an attribute or adjunct of the thing instead of the thing itself – “crown” for royalty, “turf” for horse-racing) or SYNECDOCHE (naming the part for the whole – “keels” for ships). Nothing would be left in the sphere of art except its use as a container for celebrity, and at one stroke (although it took the art world some time to realise it) the idea of the KLF was consigned to its social parody, the world of fashion, promotion, and commercial manipulation: a new model artwork every ten minutes. I want to be a machine: to print, to repeat, repetitiously to bring forth novelties.

Jarvis Cocker said “We used to buy and trade CDs, DVDs, and vinyl; now we are all more involved in the process of making. We carry our cameras in our pockets. What used to be a figure of fun, a Japanese tourist photographing everything without reflection on reality, has become our reality. Where there used to be an editor whose work involved seeking out beauty and talent, there are now sales lists and interviews; where there used to be the sober announcement of a finished work, there now is over-the-top aggressive advertising. Add it all up, and you get an idea of a system that, at every turn, has chosen to favour the commercial aspect of things above all else.”

Jarvis Cocker’s in-depth encounter with the world of the megastructure allowed him to develop a feel for the quantitative, financial, and above all temporal dimensions of that order of project. In “Justified and Ancient” he enthuses over a song that the JAMs had already realised. The government is set to promise help for a group known as Jams – those just about managing. Buy Jams, honey & spreads online from Sainsbury’s, the same great quality, freshness and choice you’d find in store. JAM is this political season’s hot new buzzword. An acronym for “just about managing”, the term originates from a report by the think tank Policy. The JAMs and dead perch merch do not make limited editions or multiples, only merchandise. The JAMs do not sign any merchandise.

“If they disappear then so be it. Personally I can live my life without ever feeling the need to own 23 JAMs branded coffin nails.” On the third day he rose from the cross he had been nailed to.

They called him up in Sheffield town. Who are the JAMs? Political breakdown.

Conservative voters, Labour voters and non-voters each make up about a quarter of the JAMs population. UKIP voters make up a further 10%, the Lib Dems 7% and the Greens 4%, whilst votes for other parties account for the final 7%. The way Breton discovered automatism is well-known: one evening, about to fall asleep, he was struck by a very peculiar phrase which, as it were, imposed itself upon him by chance: ‘Il y a un homme coupé en deux par la fenêtre’. Struck by the intensity and the novelty of this image, he decided to find a way to produce more of the same kind. Thanks to his knowledge of Freud’s ideas, he was able to call on the principle of free association, which consists in writing as fast as one can, thereby apparently avoiding the possibility of judging, or editing, what is being produced, and thus inviting chance to intervene in the creative procedure.

The KLF seek to explore the ambiguous spaces of the city — the places that exist outside the cultural, social, and economic circuits of urban life. From vacant lots and railroad tracks, to more diverse interstitial spaces. The different ways in which things haven served as a basis for systemically distinguishing how things signify in given circumstances. And how things signify has, in the Western tradition, been articulated in spatial terms – specifically, as topological relations between entities or phenomena, within a wider temporal framework of prior–subsequent (cause–effect) relationships. Toward such a conviction the postmodernist attitude is one of mockery and derision. Rejecting the aesthetic impulse as an illusion and originality in art as a myth, the postmodernist camp – or should one say, Camp postmodernism? – relies instead on parody, allegory, and what is called “appropriation.” It relies, in other words, on the recycling and repackaging of received images. Whereas it had been the abiding ambition of modernist art to “make it new,” in postmodernism—as Jarvis Cocker wrote a few years ago—“nothing here is new, only ‘neo.’”

The KLF argue that we are active participants in the world and of the world, not passive observers, outside, removed or separate from the world (which is the position taken by much of Western philosophy since Plato). And as embodied subjects exploring and “handling” the world, we each can have only a particular perspective or view of the world at any one time. This means that truth and experience and knowledge are always contingent. We can never have an all-encompassing view. Our view will always be incomplete, and therefore we can never be certain about the truth of our view, only of a degree of probability and ambiguity ingrained in our perceptions. There can be no absolute, final truth or knowledge or experience of anything. This is a form of “perspectivism” – with profound social and cultural implications.


Badger Kull Sticker Photo courtesy of: @_Mzza_

Jarvis Cocker Photo courtesy of: @Indie_Space