Best Before Death
Director: Paul Duane
Release: 4 October
In the late 1980s, two British artist-musicians started an electronica duo named The KLF. In the following decade the pair had a slew of chart-topping records, fired blanks from a machine gun into a terrified audience at the Brits, and filmed the burning of one million pounds in the Scottish Hebrides.
King Boy D, the alias of Bill Drummond, is now a man in his sixties embarking on a decade-long art project called The 25 Paintings World Tour (2014-2025), the execution of which involves Drummond traveling between countries, repeating the same low-key events (or performances or happenings) in each city he stays in. Beneath large painted signs which announce the artist’s task, Drummond shines shoes, makes beds, cooks soup and bakes cakes.
This film focuses on a two-year period of the artist’s project, split between Lexington, North Carolina and Calcutta. Drummond is both a good and bad subject for documentary. Single-mindedness bordering on obsession is a quality the screen loves, apparent in so many iconic subjects of film, from The Artist is Present to Fitzcarraldo. But Drummond is also hostile to the role of either explanation or conceptualisation in art – any attempt made by others to interpret it is met with a kind of blank grin, as though they were the ‘arty’ eejits trying to explain something very simple. This pose can wear thin for the viewer, especially when it surfaces with polite young Indian women asking Drummond why he does what he does.
He’s not a shit though, and when he relaxes – with the Lexington folk in particular – his charisma comes to the fore. The impact of his art is for anyone to judge, but the film elegantly captures the labour involved in making. An interesting, if somewhat flat, study of a notable contemporary artist.
Words: Tom Lordan