Birmingham's Supersonic Festival returns with KLF founder Bill Drummond and more

By Culture24 Reporter | 13 May 2014

Annual muso-art factory of wonders Supersonic returns to Birmingham at the end of this month. The line-up is as intriguing as ever

A photo of a man standing in a tunnel by a river holding up a flower in each hand
Bill Drummond beneath Birmingham© Tracey Moberly
An artist, musician and restless soul, Bill Drummond is probably best known as the founder of acid house band The KLF.

But his art follow-up, The K Foundation, achieved flaming infamy in 1994 by burning £1 million, shortly after they presented Rachel Whiteread – the winner of the 1993 Turner Prize – with the honour of worst artist of the year, for which her £40,000 reward was double the amount she won from her better-established suitors.

Beneath Birmingham’s gigantically complex transport intersection known as Spaghetti Junction, Drummond is about to begin a 12-year world tour alongside this year’s edition of Supersonic Festival, the ultra-cool meeting of frequently brilliant and usually bizarre bands, musicians and artists working at the edges of their disciplines across the world.

And in The17, at Eastside Projects, Drummond will re-enact two performances by the wordless, often melody-less The17 choir, using 17 people who were part of a 2006 performance in Moscow and another 17 who will act the part of 17 who performed in Saint Petersburg the following day.

As usual, the rest of the line-up is eye and ear-opening from a festival which began as a one-dayer with appearances from the likes of LCD Soundsystem and The Bug in 2003, returning to the city's Custard Factory with only a few hundred tickets on sale from organisers Capsule.

There’s “wall-to-wall madness” at the Theatre Space in a VHS-heavy collaboration between cutting-edge film and record producers, Kids Gigs blending avant-garde art and sonic experimentation at the Symphony Hall, a sound-based installation concerning electronic woodpeckers at Warwick Arts Centre and mechanical instrument building by neuroscience investigator Ryan Jordan and automata constructor Sarah Kenchington.

The music line-up features Swans, urban commentators of-the-moment Sleaford Mods and films chosen by The Quietus.

Drummond’s artworks, The 25 Paintings, signpost some of the stuff he’ll be up to during a three-month stay in the city in the exhibition accompanying the festival.

Distributing bunches of daffodils, building rafts, hiding in cafes, making beds, sweeping the streets and brewing tea are among them, he says, enlarging on plans which also revolve around films, posters, photos, a globe of the world and a large map of the city.

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