"The 25 Paintings" An exhibition of work by Bill Drummond.
I’m a huge fan of Bill Drummond. I first heard of him when he was managing Julian Cope and Echo & The Bunnymen and I wasn’t terribly interested in him then. Later on, he was in the JAMS and I bought one of the handful of copies of ‘1987 What the fuck is going on?’ that were released into the wild because that did seem interesting and thus I followed him through the KLF, The Timelords and the K Foundation, becoming progressively more interested by him, right up to the point when he and Jimmy Cauty burned a million pounds. And then I was hooked.
Since then I’ve followed Bill (as I’ve decided to refer to him) mostly through his books and the occasional article, although now he doesn’t give interviews. You can, however, read his responses to his last 100 interview questions in his book ‘100’ (if you can find a copy and have some money to spare).
Three years ago, I met a chap on Twitter, Jon, who had, if anything, a greater fascination with Bill than me. Our mutual interest in his works led us to having our own project/event/happening which you can read about here. I don’t know if Bill would have approved or found it banal but his influence is clear. And, actually, the fact that I can’t get inside Bill’s head and understand what makes him tick, is one of the reasons I find him enduringly fascinating.
For the last three months, Bill has had an exhibition at Eastside Projects in Birmingham and Jon and I decided we ought to go along. So, we chose a date and today we drove down. It was only upon arriving at the gallery and seeing that it was only open Wednesday to Saturday that we thought that we ought to have checked the when the gallery was open.
We took photos through the glass door and decided what to do next. There’s a piece of graffiti that Bill has put up in various places - “Imagine waking tomorrow + all music has disappeared” - and Jon knew that Bill had done it under spaghetti junction. We decided to recover the day by finding it.
As we were stood there talking, a man and a woman came out of the gallery door. I checked with them that the gallery was actually closed today - which, of course, it was - and then asked if there was any way that we could just pop in for five minutes. The man replied that we’d have to come back on Wednesday but Jon told him we’d come along way to see the exhibition and, to our surprise, we were told to come back in half an hour.
So it was, then, that Jon and I had the opportunity to see the exhibition on our own and I am hugely grateful that we were allowed to do so. Apart from the wonderful ‘25 paintings’, themselves, there was also ‘The 60 posters’, a bed that Bill has built and is raffling, ‘The house of cards’, maps showing many projects including the soup line and cake circle, some of the knitting that he is inviting people to do while they’re there, a rotation of his sixty second videos, and, wonderfully, his work desk. It was all totally engrossing.
Unsurprisingly, we stayed for far more than five minutes but the chap seemed happy enough, and perhaps he was even more happy when we both bought copies of all of the different books that were for sale.
It’s always odd coming out of an exhibition that’s had an effect on you; I want it to extend out into the real world. Happily, on this occasion, Jon and I had already decided that just because we’d managed to see the exhibition after all didn’t mean we could abandon plan B: finding Bill’s graffiti. (This was made easier, however, as the an in the gallery had give Jon some directions as to how to find it.)
And, indeed, after a ten minute drive to spaghetti junction, and a shortish walk along the canal, we found the graffiti, illuminated by a skylight in the bridge above. It was quite magical. Over the top Bill had put up a series of posters of him in the process of painting his head, which we’d also seen at the gallery.
I don’t know if Bill is a Situationist or what his view of Situationism is but there, under this concrete flyover, across a stagnant canal, using the light, some paint and a series of posters, he managed to create something quite beautiful.
I love him more now than I did this morning,