Insistent that there be no media presence to record the event, but inviting participation from interested parties, Bill Drummond’s Damascus in London art-music project twisted the rules of internet-age event management.
No photos were allowed, no interviews. But anyone who wanted to become a part of the event was welcome to turn up, take their place, and sing. For som the illogical but comforting act of singing a piece of music in honour of a loved one killed, wounded or trapped in the current Syrian crisis was a an act which, whilst impotent in physical terms, was emotionally and spiritually powerful for them:
‘I’m singing for a… friend of mine, who was injured…in Syria’
For others, the allure of being involved in a Drummond project was enough. The man who burned a million pounds, who played the music industry as if it were a gape-mouthed barbel and whose every public act has exuded a shrewd intelligence and media savvy to be bitterly envied. To be involved:
‘it’s important to be the next person in the chain’.
The17‘s Surround project has its own momentum, carefully stage-managed by Drummond to ask questions of received wisdom and iPhone-age entitlement culture. Rejecting the very tools of media engagement so slavishly embraced by lesser minds, keeping everything elusive (although never exclusive), creating a buzz that has nothing to do with SEO keywords or social networking, Surround is rare, fleeting and undocumented.
Sure, we’ll have scraps of video gleaned from passing phone-cams or CCTV, but nothing that can come close to having been there, having been one of The17 for a day, having been involved in an artwork of true power that is unsullied by the cheapening effects of promotion, marketing, dumbing-down.
All that exists as a record of London’s Surround event – originally planned to take place in Damascus, but owing to the situation in the Syrian capital, moved to a London location and involving a group of UK-based Syrians (see Drummond’s essay for Trebuchet explaining the event here) – is The17’s own podcast of the event.
Listen, enjoy, and understand.
Scottish artist Bill Drummond (1953) has used various media in his practice including actions, music and words. His actions too numerous to list, some more infamous than others; his music from the multi million selling KLF to the choral music of The17; the words have accumulated into a pile of books. His work of the last twelve years is catalogued at www.penkilnburn.com.