The KLF returned from a 23-year ‘moratorium’ with a three-day event of art pranks and bizarre shenanigans around Liverpool. Here’s what happened.
Just when we thought the last train to Trancentral had long since departed, The KLF returned from the self-imposed 23-year ‘moratorium’ they began after burning their entire profits for a laugh in 1994 with a three-day spree of bizarre happenings and mass art pranks they called Welcome To The Dark Ages. How weird was it? Let us count the ways…
The book stamping
Arriving at Liverpool bookshop News From Nowhere at 23 minutes past midnight in their knackered ice cream van (rumoured to contain a coffin holding an effigy of James Brown), the JAMs stamped copies of their new novel 2023: A Trilogy with a diamond skull (Drummond) and a mock up of the Starbucks logo featuring Yoko Ono (Cauty). Amongst the many strict rules of the event were ‘no small talk’, ‘no photos’ and ‘gifts will be accepted but immediately destroyed in a controlled explosion’.
Whitewashing a car
Sticking to their oath to destroy any KLF memorabilia they come across, the pair whitewashed a fan’s replica of their Ford Timelord car, leaving just a patch of the windscreen clear so the angry owner could drive it home.
The big question
The main debate of Welcome To The Dark Ages was titled Why did The KLF Burn A Million Pounds, but while attendees were given all manner of opinions on the matter from art academics, witnesses, artists and critics, when Drummond and Cauty themselves emerged to face the question, they replied simply “whatever”. Which won’t buy many dialysis machines.
The anti-corporate art pranks
400 volunteers were recruited to help the event spread across the city, including Starbucks Persuaders, who infiltrated branches to replace the logo with the KLF’s Yoko-themed version.
The Rites Of MuMufication
As the three-day event drew to a close, the volunteers gathered to have their faces painted as skeletons, don traffic cone hats and yellow hoodies and t-shirts gather in a hall where the throng was treated to a film of the book made up of a cascade of psychedelic visuals of burning pyramids and scarecrows, and a performance by a choir of volunteers fronted by Jarvis Cocker. It was all part of a surreal sales pitch – two reps from something called the Green Cuneral Company explained their new business concept with the JAMs, in which people grant the company ownership of some of their ashes to be turned into bricks in massive ‘People Pyramids’ they plan to build in Toxteth.
The Great Pull North
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After the sales pitch, the volunteers gathered to pull the ice cream van through the streets of Liverpool for two miles, eventually reaching a field where the duo burned two coffins on a gigantic pyramid structure. The Wicker Van, if you will.
The Graduate’s Ball
The final event of Welcome To The Dark Ages was the Graduate’s Ball, a kind of afterparty in the Invisible Wind Factory bar where a band of volunteers cobbled together by Pete Wylie into a band called Badger Kull performed their own and only song ‘Toxteth Day Of The Dead’. Same time in 2040 then, lads?