From Sonic Weapons To A Bulletin Board At Venus Over Manhattan

Back in the summer of 1996 I was invited on a journalist junket to watch KLF pop star Jimmy Cauty demonstrate sonic weapons at a remote location on Dartmoor (south Devon and close to Cauty’s home at the time).  A carriage on a London to Exeter train was blocked booked for stringers attending the event and we were plied with booze on the journey. By the time we boarded a helicopter at Exeter airport (a small provincial facility that shuts down in the early evening), the majority of journalists present were at least mildly drunk.
After a twenty minute chopper ride disaster struck. The pilot announced that we couldn’t land because a mist had swept across the moor. Instead, we returned to Exeter airport where we were told a coach would pick us up and transport us to the acoustic weapons test site. After an hour of waiting, the PR people were going crazy – hardly surprising when you consider that they’d spent fifty thousand pounds staging the event and wanted to impress us stringers into giving them lots of coverage. Meanwhile, an assortment of journalists and photographers were having luggage cart races around an otherwise deserted passenger concourse. The airport had closed down for the night, until one of our party succeeded in activating the public address system and went into pirate DJ mode.
A security guard appeared and attempted to restore order when a bored music journalist switched on a luggage conveyor and one of his friends disappeared down it. While this was going on I picked up a huge pile of postcards depicting a Jersey European Airways jet and placed them in my bag; my thinking being that one day I’d make an art work out of them. The postcards sat around various flats I lived in for 16 years waiting to be alchemised into art, which finally happened this summer when Matthew Higgs asked me to contribute to a show of Bulletin Board art he has organised at Venus Over Manhattan – you can see my work here.
Returning to 1996, I was supposed to get an exclusive interview with Jimmy Cauty for The Big Issue but because not a single journalist had seen the promised sonic weapons demonstration, the PR people offered all the stringers present an interview with the KLF star as a form of compensation. We’d been left stranded at Exeter airport for several hours and weren’t taken to something approaching civilisation until around midnight. I got to speak with Cauty early on – he saw us journos one by one in the back room of a local pub – and he admitted to me that his sonic weapons were actually just some disco gear through which he played back pop music at high volume (I already suspected as much having seen an earlier demonstration in London). He told me he’d simply hoaxed the media and police into believing he was developing acoustic weapons.
I wrote up my interview and sent it to The Big Issue who very shortly afterwards called me to thank me for producing a really great piece. Two days later my editor Tina Jackson phoned me sounding distraught – I’d done my work properly but Cauty had given nearly identical quotes to The Independent newspaper.The Big Issue now couldn’t run the piece I’d written but Tina Jackson said if I could quickly knock up something else about Cauty then they’d use that. I replied that since Cauty’s sonic weapons were a hoax, I could write a joke story about him showing me a secret bunker where among other things he stored more conventional combat equipment including guns and ammunition. This suggestion was immediately accepted by Tina Jackson.
My humorous story Captive of the KLF appeared in The Big Issue of 19 August 1996. On 26 August 30 anti-terrorist cops waving a copy of my hoax Big Issue article raided Jimmy Cauty’s country home and arrested him. This made the front page of The Western Morning News on 28 October 1996; on 15 November that year The Guardian newspaper provided their take on the matter (and this is my favourite piece of coverage of the incident – despite the fact ‘The Grauniad’ call me an ‘art terrorist’ which is not a term I would use to describe myself):

“So where do you reckon the intelligence services get all their best stuff from? Telephone taps? High-level informers? Secret agents? Or none of the above? It appears in fact that they spend their days reading The Big Issue. Following an entirely spoofed article by self-styled art terrorist Stewart Home describing how he was kidnapped and shown an arsenal of weapons at the house of KLF/K Foundation money-burner-in-chief Jim Cauty, Mr Cauty’s abode was put under police surveillance for several days. Not long after, it was raided by 30 officers who searched the gaff from top to bottom and found nothing….” John Duncan Guardian Diary, 15 November 1996, page 17.

This incident involving Jimmy Cauty and the anti-terroirist cops gave me a great anecdote to tell friends – but actually the best thing to come out of that journalist junket is my Bulletin Board art work which after 16 years has finally finished its necessary period of gestation The Matthew Higgs/White Columns curated show Bulletin Board – including my postcard piece – is on at Venus Over Manhattan, 980 Madison Avenue, 3rd Floor, New York, from 20 July to 24 August.
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – – you know it makes (no) sense!


Comment by Jim Diamond on 2012-07-15 19:16:09 +0000

Boom boom! That’s the sound of reaching the punchline after hoaxing people about developing sonic weapons!

Comment by Bill Drummond on 2012-07-15 20:50:34 +0000

You couldn’t make it up!

Comment by Ludwig van Beethoven on 2012-07-15 21:11:19 +0000

I hear what you’re saying about sonic weapons!

Comment by Lucy Johnson on 2012-07-15 21:18:16 +0000

And it shows how dim plod is…

Comment by The Man in the Iron Mask on 2012-07-15 22:35:05 +0000

Hoaxing is foreplay, what you do before the ultimate practical joke: murder. So it was right and fitting that Stewart Home got his retaliation in first with naughty Cauty. I am locked in my cell of one otherwise I’d kill Bill Drummond. 45 times – just to make sure.

Comment by Charles Saatchi on 2012-07-15 23:03:35 +0000

How much does your Bulletin Board piece sell for?

Comment by The Man in the Iron Mask on 2012-07-15 23:32:27 +0000

Are you still on a diet and refusing your wife Nigella’s high cholesterol home-cooking?

Comment by Charles Saatchi on 2012-07-16 00:48:59 +0000

I’m on a diet of reassuringly expensive art…

Comment by Fiona B. on 2012-07-16 00:54:36 +0000

Of course Charles Saatchi doesn’t actually write that much himself – he employs an army of ex-art school girls to comment on this websites and elsewhere on his behalf and most usually not using his name but a string of fake ones… He comes from advertising and he knows the artists who have profiles on his site want to feel like people are paying attention to their work…. and he wants the world to think it has a lot of active users….

Comment by The Man in the Iron Mask on 2012-07-16 09:30:55 +0000

You can’t write, Felice, but that equips you to ghost Charles Saatchi’s post-prandial dribblings.

Comment by Betty Boolean on 2012-07-16 10:03:50 +0000

I had the filth kick my door down once on account of me art.
one of them was called S. Holmes.

Comment by The Man in the Iron Mask on 2012-07-16 10:40:49 +0000

I bet he said: You’re nicked, my beauty!

Comment by Betty Boolean on 2012-07-16 10:45:28 +0000

He was a total gentleman.

Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-07-16 13:43:20 +0000

And Holmes is an English name and unrelated to the Scottish surname Home…. Hopefully he wasn’t related to Harold “Tanky” Challenor….
And I’ve had to take out another spam comment here….. a few slip through the spam filter but most get caught!

Comment by Linda Pagani on 2012-07-16 14:52:55 +0000

Jimmy Cauty made a great Athena poster. Maybe a couple of those could be mounted inside one of those bulletin boards!

Comment by David Peel on 2012-07-16 15:20:55 +0000

Those anti-terrorist cops must have been on drugs!

Comment by James Sinclair on 2012-07-16 16:00:08 +0000

PR people are pod people, human bodies taken over by aliens. You can’t trust them.

Comment by The Man in the Iron Mask on 2012-07-16 18:42:49 +0000

You’re very kind to the PR species. They are much worse than aliens – see Edward Bernays, the nephew of Freud and the Godfather of PR: he gave an upbeat gloss to what amounted to a US invasion of Guatemala in 1954, with all the atrocities which followed. And that’s a lot of atrocities because in a sense Guatemala marked the beginning of the Domino Theory, whereby the US felt it had the divine right to intervene in any state which it suspected of socialist/communist leanings to stop others following suit. All the torturers and fascist death-squads which have operated in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Nicaragua, Salvador and other South American countries since the mid-’50s, can thank Mr PR/Bernays for aiding and abetting their their bloody mission. I wonder where Matthew Freud PR stand on this issue – apart from in a field near Chipping Norton supping with Murdochs and Camerons?

Comment by Lucy Johnson on 2012-07-16 22:17:51 +0000

Stick that Spam into orbit!

Comment by Lucy Johnson on 2012-07-16 22:19:45 +0000

The Man in the Iron Mask knows what’s going on!

Comment by William Fever on 2012-07-16 23:53:23 +0000

Art terrorism is like so 1996!

Comment by Michael Roth on 2012-07-17 06:02:15 +0000

Spam is the new art terrorism!

Comment by The Man in the Iron Mask on 2012-07-17 09:47:04 +0000

Terrorism is the new Sublime – see Stockhausen on the Twin Towers.

Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-07-17 14:58:31 +0000

State sponsored terrorism was definitely what was going on in Guatemala as you mention above – I skimmed over some of that a while back on this blog when talking about some film screenings and panel talks about live art from Guatemala:
“Among other things, they outlined the political background to contemporary cultural production in Guatemala. This might partly be summarised by explaining that mid-twentieth century land reforms in Guatemala led to a CIA sponsored coup in 1954; then after a presidential assassination three years later and other internal troubles, there followed a civil war that only ended in 1996.
“The neocolonialist exploitation of Latin America by the United Fruit Company, whose economic interests were being defended by the United States government when it intervened in Guatemala was not mentioned, presumably in the interests of keeping the session relatively short and simple. What was outlined was the policy of genocide towards the mainly rural native American population, the destruction of hundreds of Mayan villages, and the systematic murder by the US supported Guatemalan regime of thousands of civilians who became known as the disappeared…”
The entire article is here:
On the main part of this site is my own take on The Twin Towers:
And obviously that take is a little different from Stockhausen’s as I’m not at all keen on him – as this piece on the main part of the site makes clear:

Comment by The Man in the Iron Mask on 2012-07-18 10:31:17 +0000

Thanks, Mr Trippy: very good links re Guatemala… By the way, demonstrating against the American involvement in the coup there in 1954: this was the last time my old friend and lover Frida Kahlo was seen in public – she looked great in her wheelchair with a placard on the streets of Mexico City.
Mr Trippy, also very good in another link to be reminded of the Neoist Alliance event in Brighton in 1993 when it demonstrated against Stockhausen and ‘high art’ and when it also had the counter-revolutionary poltroons Psychic TV to contend with. Two years previously at the launch party for Jon Savage’s ENGLAND’S DREAMING Genesis P Orridge took me aside and pointing to another guest told me on no account to speak to ‘evil Stewart Home’. But I did, enjoying his jocund company and more. Porridge was so miffed he put a curse on me. Sure enough, a couple of days later while I was on the Central Line tube reading the Savage book, my nose bled profusely all over a page detailing the over-rated exploits of Porridge and Throbbing Gristle at the ICA. The page detached itself and flew off like a bloody bird (the nightjar is also known as ‘hexa’) down the tunnel at the nearest point underground to where Alester Crowley used to have a flat on Chancery Lane. I’m fond of picking my nose so maybe it was just that. Whatever its real cause, my snout stigmata was the last of Porridge’s magical powers so it’s no surprise that he and his sidekicks were psychically vanquished two years later near the Brighton Pavilion – all piss and wind, just as today Porridge is all silicon and botox, a post-modern shaman/Throbbing Steroid whose magus re-assignment was botched. He couldn’t even conjure up an Estee Lauder face-pack.
Times have certainly changed since 1993 and I don’t just mean Gender P Orrdige’s forays into outsider art tit-waggling. These days the bourgeoisie take ‘low art’ as seriously as ‘high’. A recent example of this kiss of death was Laura Barton in the Guardian, photographed in her necrophile straight-leg denim jeans, defending rock’n’roll against classical music. How daringly controversial and groovy of Laura to sing the praises of ‘scuzzy’ old rockers etc. Christ, what a prosepect rockin’ and rollin’ with Barton. I’d rather join the Cistercians in tenebrae; and anyway monasteries attract a higher class of bum, preferable to Barton and her bourgeous ilk gyrating their moribund buttocks in order to ensure rock’n’roll as a dead art form.
From the ridiculous to the Sublime… Home’s gloss on Stockhausen’s take on the conflagration of the Twin Towers reminds me that the concept of the Sublime was formulated by a man in terror of the Terror, disturbed to his reactionary core by the shadow of the guillotine cast from revolutionary Paris onto the British ruling-class. Arise, Sir Edmund Burke in the historical fantasist’s faint hope that as you do so you will take a sans-cultotte musket-ball right in the snout… Burke wrote his theories about the sublime while still in his teens – hey, the Sublime, ’twas the 18c rock’n’roll of the ‘out-and-out vulgar bourgeois’, as Marx dubbed Burke.

Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-07-18 14:19:43 +0000

GPO is one of the most insecure people I’ve ever met. Back in the 1980s when I ran into him occasionally I found it hilarious that he viewed me as a serious rival to his pathetic endeavours – since I had no interest in being either a cult leader or producing really crap sub-avant-garde records that were also about 30 years out of date!

Comment by Betty Boolean on 2012-07-22 12:34:09 +0000

That Stockhausen geezer sounds like a proper knobhead.

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