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Jimmy (James) Cauty is a British contemporary artist, musician and performer, best known for being one half of 1990’s avant-garde art-pop electronic band The KLF and for his anarchist artworks and concepts.
Cauty started his visual art career early as a teenager, producing artwork for poster company Athena. By the 1980’s Cauty was working as a musician, co-creating the ambient house act The Orb, and in 1987 joined forces with Bill Drummond to create The KLF. Despite The KLF being the biggest selling singles act in 1991, after an infamous live performance on the Brit Awards where the duo fired machine gun blanks into the audience, they disbanded and deleted their entire back catalogue. With the profits made from The KLF, the duo turned their attention to the art world, creating a Turner Prize bashing K Foundation award for worst artist, doubling the prize money and awarding it to the Turner Prize winner of 1994, on the street outside the main award ceremony. Most infamously, Drummond and Cauty as the K Foundation then set on fire one million pounds, the profits from the KLF and filmed it, provoking a media outcry.
Post KLF, Cauty has continued to work as a record producer and artist. His anarchist artwork is conceptual, challenges authority with dark humour and provides relevant and necessary social commentary for the contemporary age. His most famous recent art campaigns include ‘Stamps of mass destruction’ in 2003, featuring the
Queen with a gas mask on. Following legal threats from the Royal Mail, the original stamps were destroyed. Operation Magic Kingdom in 2007 was a street led campaign of billboards showing US Forces in Iraq wearing Mickey Mouse heads, Blackoff was a giftshop full of gift items based on the Government’s anti-terror leaflets and Aftermath Dislocation Principle in 2015 was a large model riot scene, based on the dimensions of a traditional model village. This work was shown at Banksy’s Dismaland and continues to tour historic riot scenes around the world.
Jamie Reid. Widely known for his iconic artwork for the Sex Pistols, Reid is a far more complex artist than simply the safety-pinned face of Punk Rock. He embodies a revolutionary spirit of a traditional English nature - in his work one can invoke the rebellions of Wat Tyler, the Levellers and various subcultures across the ages who sought to offer an alternative political and spiritual model.
Having met the infamous future Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McClaren at Croydon Art School during the 60s, Reid became connected to the Situationists - an international organisation of social revolutionaries, many of whom were avant-garde artists. This led to the running of the radical political publishing outfit Suburban Press, where he specialised in producing literature for anarchists and women’s groups. This is where he created his famous ‘ransom note’ style - a style that Reid brought from the underground world of fanzines and subversive magazines to the general conscious with his work for The Sex Pistols. McClaren recruited Reid via telegram to produce the infamous artwork for the band, Reid having moved away from London for a more rural life. Working closely with the Pistols (even co-writing the lyrics for Anarchy in the UK), Reid produced the most iconic images of the Punk movement which defined a generation - God Save The Queen, Holidays in the Sun, Anarchy in the UK, Never mind the Bollocks and Pretty Vacant.
Although it is tempting to connect Reid with an urban setting, in fact he is greatly influenced by alternative spiritual belief systems such as Shamanism, Druidry and Magic, with their connections to ancient English folk culture. His work continues in this spiritual and political vein, constantly challenging politicians, protesting nuclear weapons, the criminal justice system and even other artists such as Damien Hirst. His influence can be found in the work of urban artist Shepard Fairey, with whom he has recently collaborated with and his music connection continues with artwork protesting the imprisonment of political Russian band Pussy Riot.