One photo a day until I meet Jonathan Harris

9th March

I have an apology to make to a certain Mr. Bill Drummond.

If you haven't heard of him, Bill Drummond is an artist who is most known for the hit singles he had with a group called the KLF.
I'm a big fan of the KLF, not only because their song "3AM Eternal" is inextricably linked with good memories of my high school days, but also because of the book they wrote: "The Manual: How to have a number one the easy way". I discovered this a few years later while at University, and loved its subversive account of how the group successfully duped an unwitting music industry. After this, details of the KLF's activities became shaky. There was one story that said they ended up burning 1 million pounds on a deserted island off the coast of Scotland, but who would ever believe anything like that?

Mr. Drummond (aka King Boy D) is one half of the KLF, but on Christmas Day two years ago I didn't know that. As I unwrapped a rather large present from a family friend, my heart sank. Instead of a jumbo box of chocolates I discovered a very thick, very heavy and very red hardcover book entitled "17" by an author I had never heard of. "Bill Drummond," I asked myself, "Who is he?"
Whenever people give me books, I always feel an obligation to read them, but where was I going to find the time to get through this hefty tome? Who even buys hardcover books these days? It seemed that it weighed about as much as the suitcase I was living out of. I mean, why couldn't she have taken the easy option and just given me chocolates?

Despite my initially strident aversion to this red monolith, a quiet Boxing Day and an open fireplace coaxed me into opening up the first page. It probably only took a few sentences before I was hooked. Granted, the open fire helped, but there was no denying it was a great read. Grand ideas and bold actions were presented half-seriously in a frank but personal style of writing.  And then (lo and behold), after a couple of chapters, things started sounding familiar. It felt like I knew this guy. Finally, a few pages later, with a concrete reference to the burning of a million pounds, I knew it had to be the KLF. This was a great feeling of coincidence, like suddenly recognising an old friend in a foreign town.

The book had me. I carted it back Paris and even lugged it along for company on long commutes to school and back. It was on one such journey, after sitting down and just about to pull out the book for a read, that I suddenly noticed the graffiti carved into the seat opposite me. Hardly believing my eyes I lent closer to inspect and compare the letters at close range as it seemed too strange to be true. But there was no doubting it, the letters "KLF" were carved very distinctly and several times over into the orangey-brown vinyl seat upholstery right in front of me. I pulled out the book, placed it on the seat, briefly re-unting Bill Drummond with his former band, and took a photo.

Whenever I read a book that I like, I feel like writing a letter to the author. "17" by Bill Drummond was an exceptional example of this. As I described it to one of my friends, "its like reading 10 versions of Faust back-to-back". I especially loved the story he told about a very expensive artwork he had hanging on his bedroom wall. As a recall it, he had bought it for 10,000 pounds, but somehow this bothered him. One night, unable to sleep, he took it off the wall, sliced it up into 10,000 pieces and decided to sell the pieces for 1 pound each. For some reason this appealed to me. Would you buy a small piece of the Mona Lisa if the price was affordable? I might. If anything, I figured owning one of those pieces would at least be concrete proof that there existed someone with enough nerve to slice up such an expensive object. If I did write a letter to Bill Drummond, I might enclose some money and ask to buy one of the pieces if there were any left.

Of course, there is one of Drummond's actions that always draws a lot of attention: the burning of 1 million pounds. Amongst many other things, I find this fascinating for its power to divide people in their reactions to it. Try telling a few people that you've heard of a guy who burnt a million pounds. You'll quickly find that it divides people into two distinct groups: those who say "What??" and those who say "Wow." The first time this principle of division came to my attention was while watching the 2007 France vs. England World Cup Rugby semi-final with a group of friends. For the casual observer it seemed the match was really between the brute-force of the bearded S├ębastian Chabal and the clean-cut precision of Jonny Wilkinson. As the guys discussed the technical merits of each approach, one of the girls piped up and said "yeah, but which one would you prefer in bed?" Although this comment shocked us blokes into stunned and uncomfortable silence, it appeared that each girl had a very clear and defined preference for one or the other. We constated that the same disposition would also determine a girl's preference between Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen). Had Bill Drummond encountered this kind of binary division between people's reactions to his work? Did he have any theories as to the origin of such divisions? Could they be genetic or can such preferences be changed by one's environment and culture? These were the kinds of questions I could ask if I wrote Bill Drummond a letter.

Time passed however and the letter never got written. I finished the book and even gave it away in a symbolic manner that Mr. Drummond would have been proud of, but still, no letter was written. Then the whole Koyaanisqatsi thing happened and I felt bad. I felt bad because I could have called this project "Meeting Bill Drummond". He is certainly someone who's path I would like to cross. And then I felt doubly bad because I know that artists can be sensitive and maybe he might take offence that I didn't name the project after him and never want to talk to me. This would be a shame as there are still many questions I would like to ask him.  So to try and make up for it, today I decided to finally write the letter. I even enclosed the photo I took on the train and some money to hopefully buy myself a very small piece of some very expensive art. Then, after all my painstaking preparations I discovered with horror that he has no clear mailing address listed anywhere on the internet. With the address I finally scrawled on the front of the envelope, I imagine it highly unlikely he might ever actually receive the letter and even more unlikely that he might discover this website. However, it seems I'm trying to ignore all these normal reasons for not doing things. In rebellion against this natural tendancy, and just on the off-chance he does happen to stumble this way, hopefully he'll make it to the end of this text and read this:

I apologise Mr. Drummond (sincerely).