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Burning 1.000.000 Pounds


K Foundation Burn a Million Quid was an action that took place on August 23rd 1994, in which the K Foundation (an art duo consisting of Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty) burned one million Pounds Sterling in cash on the Scottish island of Jura. This money represented the bulk of the K Foundation’s funds, earned by Drummond and Cauty as The KLF, one of the UK’s most successful pop groups of the early nineties. Burning the entire one million pounds took around 67 minutes.

The burn was filmed with a HI-8 video camera by K Foundation collaborator Gimpo and resulted in the film ‘Watch the K Foundation Burn a Million Quid’.

In August 1995 the movie was toured around the UK, with Drummond and Cauty engaging each audience in debate about the burning and its meaning. In November 1995, the duo pledged to dissolve the K Foundation and to refrain from public discussion of the burning for a period of 23 years. Despite this Drummond has spoken about the burning in 2000 and 2004. At first he was unrepentantbut in 2004, he admitted to the BBC that he regretted burning the money.

“It’s a hard one to explain to your kids and it doesn’t get any easier. I wish I could explain why I did it so people would understand.”Sunday Mail (Glasgow), 25 July 2004, p27.

Watch the documentary about the whole project here:

More info about the whole project can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K_Foundation_Burn_a_Million_Quid

This action by the K-Foundation has always greatly influenced me. For years I didn’t know if I thought it was great or stupid, but the fact alone that after all these years I still couldn’t make up my mind, eventually made me realize that I loved it. Especially the fact that there was no fuss, no spectacle. The whole action is just what it is: burning a million pounds. Nothing more. Nothing less either………

In one of the parts of the video you can witness a gallery director declaring that, taking the K foundation ‘s history in account, he thinks he could probably sell the suitcase with the ashes of the burnt money for a thousands pounds.

Before burning my Fools Ark in 2002, I thought that burning that wooden ship, which had cost me so much blood, sweat, tears, and yes, lots of money, would be great and awful at the same time. And no, I never did regret it. In fact I do think it might actually be the best money I ever spent. But then again my opinion might have changed when you ask me in another ten years………

23 thoughts on “Burning 1.000.000 Pounds

  1. Financial Flaming – marking the attitude of keeping up appearances of enslaving wants and needs. Burn babies burn, discard the world of her dictators, bury those alienating beacons, ruins of economic failure. Within the grizzled greyish ashes a phoenix will arise, by destroying pounds of paper a new tree will come to life..

  2. Destroy to create.

    We are all waiting for the global rebirth.

    So clear your bankacounts, pile up your stack of 200 euro banknotes.

    Grab a lighter and start a revolution!

  3. @Simon

    I agree with Maxi that it doesn't really make sense to just burn your money. Especially if you're the only one doing it. If everybody, really everybody, in the whole wide world would do it, that might be a different story. But of course that's a very hypothetical "IF".

    I think the burning by the K-Foundation is a great action, but one that can't ever be repeated again without losing all of its magic. Also the K-Foundation, because of their previous money-related actions were the perfect ones to do this.

    So go ahead: grab a lighter and do something creative with it, but don't just burn your money!

    And if you really desperately want to get rid of your money, then please donate it to the Exchanghibition Bank :-)

  4. In an talk show the audience accuses them of being immoral. Instead of giving the money to a charity they burned it. This is interesting because it implicitly critisizes the whole concept of private property. Why is burning money immoral and buying a luxurious yacht of equivallent value not? Such a yacht depreciates (loses its value) around 10% a year. Showing this controversy is a great achievement of the K-foundation.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9lRJ2m0fso

  5. In a talk show the audience accused them of being immoral. Instead of giving the money to a charity they burned it. This is interesting because it implicitly criticizes the whole concept of private property. Why is burning money immoral and buying a luxurious yacht of equivalent value not? Such a yacht depreciates (loses its value) around 10% a year. Showing this controversy is a great achievement of the K-foundation.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9lRJ2m0fso

  6. very interesting talkshow, thanks for the link!.

    Some soundbites that stuck in my head:

    they were not fined, because according to them "it's not against the law to destroy money. it's against the law to deface money"

    "By doing this it's going to the Big Bank in the Sky. When we die and go to heaven, there'll be a million quid waiting for us. with interest. LOL

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  8. FFT: How is it substantively different from any other art project?

    I see this as a minimalist offering, much cleaner and sparser in execution than the usual overly-sentimental and precious immolation of value seen on the playa of BRC.

    Doubts that refuse to vanish, permanent aches, and gnawing regrets expressed by one of the artists really make this piece sing.

  9. @Ghostie: I totally agree that the sparsity and minimalist aspect of it is what makes it truly great. As I mentioned in the article: 'The whole action is just what it is: burning a million pounds. Nothing more. Nothing less either…'

    And this must have been a very deliberate choice looking at the nature of all their previous actions which were always totally over the top and full of symbolism and spectacle.

    I do feel though that it's something that only can be done once to that full effect. Repeating it would in my opinion be a waste of money.

    But the K Foundation were the perfect ones to be the first to do it!

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  11. The Chinese have been burning money for a long, long time already to appease the "banks in the sky". It has various names, such as Joss paper, ghost money or hell banknotes. More about that on wikipedia of course: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joss_paper

    This just goes to show that there have been others doing this, a great many of them in fact, and they are not alone when doing so as it's a cultural tradition!

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  15. I reckon it was a piece of 'art' too far. If you don't like the idea of money (which I suppose was their point) then give it away, do something truly useful with it, there's enough trouble in the world already without deliberately destroying stored 'value' that could have made quite a few lives a good deal better. A million quid could have sorted quite a few dodgy water supplies around the world, stopped a few thousand kids from dying. Now that's a proper 'artwork'. I have a lot of respect for these two, but this one just reminds me of spoilt kids destroying their toys, in a tantrum. Guess they may have grown up a bit by now. Let's hope so.

    • Why is burning money immoral and buying ten huge mansions around the world, in which most of these big stars or billionaires never even set foot, not? Isn't that a far bigger waste? But one that seems to be accepted

      • It's generally accepted that those people with multiple mansions and yachts are selfish bastards. Burning 1 MegaPounds is a missed opportunity for doing something useful. That's not my personal position, just an argumentation to your question.

  16. yes, that's just as bad, but at least there are going to be a few beneficial side effects – local employment for one(maintenance, cleaning, taxis to and from, notaries – sure, at crap wages, probably, but it's something) and the 'value' inherent in the million still exists, even if it's in a stupid mansion. Not that much better, but better. In the KLF's case, they just pissed it away, all that effort involved in people's labour, to pay for the music in the first place, gone up in smoke. It's kind of rude. People choose to spend their hard earned money on your music and you just torch it, destroy it. If they didn't want to take the money for their art in the first place, they could have given the music away for free- or used the money for something truly useful. That million represents an awful lot of 'value', derived from the world's resources, and then just thrown away. By all means make a point, art people, but some points just aren't worth making, and this one wasn't.

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  19. Burn millions is crazy and I think art can't be an excuse for it. There are so many people that are really cut of money, that have nothing to eat or can't afford medicine. If you don't need money – just donate and help others. This is the art…

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