North Edinburgh Arts, 15a Pennywell Court, MacMillan Square, next to Muirhouse Library, Edinburgh, EH4 4TZ, May 28 – June 26, Thursdays – Saturdays, Thu – Fri,10am – 4pm, Sat 10am – 1pm
K-Foundation artist’s new model village explores urban dystopia from the back of a lorry.
Jimmy Cauty’s new installation, ESTATE, looks set to be transported to Edinburgh for a month long residency from the end of May and throughout June 2021.
ESTATE is a dystopian model village experience featuring four abandoned concrete tower blocks at 1:24 scale (approx 2 metres high) housed in a 40-foot shipping container.
The tower blocks each serve a different function in the ESTATE and contain amusing scenes of mass social, economic and environmental devastation.
Produced by L-13 Light Industrial Workshop, ESTATE is hosted in Edinburgh by new producing collective, the Society of Spectacles.
John Robb : We were talking about this the other day – every vision of the future seems to be dystopian! Is that because we really are heading into a very dark world or does it
make for better art! I sometimes think the future will just be generally mundane with dark edges!
Jimmy Cauty : ESTATE is set sometime between 2018 and 2020 so it’s not so much a vision of the future
but more a general look around at the situation today. I guess after WW2 there was a vision of the future started in America that basically was about flying cars and spacy looking
architecture but by the end of the century everyone realised there was never going to be flying cars (Drone vehicles don’t count, a real flying car uses anti-gravity) and all the spacy
architecture is just a load of corporate nonsense. So future visions (dystopian or utopian) have been cancelled until further notice.
John Robb : The tower block is a very emotive symbol – is there a whiff of Ballard to this project? I like the idea of the blocks having no residents – adding a Marie Celeste mystique to the pieces. Or is it that the very buildings are somehow alive.
Jimmy Cauty : Yes there is more than a whiff of Ballard in there but also eventually the whiff of mould and urine in the elevator shafts. An artist friend in Auckland who specialises in smells has concocted something for the project, I haven’t installed the smells yet but at some point in the future that will happen and it will be quite unpleasant. I like to think that the tower blocks
are a kind of stage set for a movie/Netflix mini-series, the narrative is unknown but by studying the content of the tv news bulletins that are playing in some of the flats the
audience can come up with their own version of events. The towers are all wired for sound and light so they are sort of alive and I think small animals and insects have already taken
John Robb : I live in a tower block and like it’s functionality but post Grenfell it’s felt a little edgier – is Grenfell part of the backdrop?
Jimmy Cauty : The project was started about 6 months before Grenfell. At first I thought the real-world events would have an impact on the project but over time that hasn’t happened. I don’t live in a tower block but I guess ever since the Ronin Point tower block collapse there has been a feeling of unease, the utopian vision of high-rise has gradually given way to the reality of decay due to lack of investment and poor maintenance. Some of the equations and graffiti on the walls of ESTATE talks about entropy and decay. We plan to take the towers out of the container at some point and set them up in a forest and just walk away and leave them to nature. The concrete will last a couple of thousand years but some of the expanded foam used for the insulation in the walls will eventually end up in the food chain… sorry about that
folks, but model-village building is not very eco-friendly.
John Robb : Does art still have the power to disrupt the narrative? (KLF were proof that music once had this potency)
Jimmy Caauty : I think the only narrative that’s getting disrupted here is the one about the bucolic English
model village and that’s a pretty easy target to disrupt. The most disruptive thing I’ve seen lately was the spontaneous toppling of the Colston statue in Bristol and that wasn’t even
billed as an art event.
What happened in the music busines back in the last century is probably best left back there.
John Robb : The devil is on the detail – the pieces look amazing in their detail – is that to draw the viewer into your world? The same attention to model making and detail as the train set in KLF video?
Jimmy Cauty : My obsession with detail goes right back to the 70s and the Lord of the Rings poster, the
theory being that if I put in way more detail than all the other artists then somehow that would make my stuff better. That idea has not really gone away but it means I have to do
50% more work than everyone else for the same money – not that I do it for the money, model village builders are incredibly poorly paid.
John Robb : Are the dystopian visions of the current project a modern version of the Lord Of The
Rings illustrations you made your name with? They were forged in war and industrial
revolution – what are the modern shadows? Nihilism? Pandemics? Eternal war? What
kind of landscape would the hobbits now be wandering in! Scaled down tower blocks?
Jimmy Cauty : The Lord Of The Rings poster was forged in a haze of dope smoke and LSD in and around
Dartington Hall in the early 70s. By the end of that decade I was denying I had anything to do with it… how was I supposed to know that punk was just about to happen?
I think we still have the same shadows that the cave dwellers had and yes, the world will still be basically the same in another 5000 years from now: still no flying cars, model village
builders still badly paid etc.
I think if Hobbits started appearing today wandering around they would be quickly picked up and transported to a high security hobbit holding warehouse somewhere in Kent. Priti Patel would say something like ‘’It’s totally unacceptable that Hobbits can be wandering around in this day and age” and they will be dispatched back to the 1970s where they belong.
John Robb : Will you ever make any more music or is art your main expression and channel now?
Jimmy Cauty : I actually used up my allotted package of musical ideas sometime in 1992, so I haven’t really
done anything since then, apart from some not very good remixes and some sonic weapons soundtracks in the late 90s, but recently I’ve been experimenting with sound again. Mostly
Chinook engine sounds combined with extremely right-wing announcements by Amber Rudd. I have a new half-imagined band called Shunt Resistor and the L-13 Light Industrial
Orchestra. We are interested in creating some AV installations inside a 40ft shipping container called the World-Famous Shunt Resistor Wall of Death. We plan to tour that container along with ESTATE and the Aftermath Dislocation Principle, so three containers in the same place at the same time, it will be like a kind of model village/wall of death experience… whatever the hell that is?
John Robb : Has the role of art changed in the 21st century? Did we lose the counter culture and punk wars or can an artist still make the change?
Jimmy Cauty : Who cares about art? The war was lost, Unilever took over the world and the shopping channel replaced the Whole Earth Catalogue… All the things the hippies were banging on about came true, it’s now a total shit show but there is still the L-13.
Note: We are thinking of minting some campaign medals for various counter-culture events, Bristol statue toppling, pole tax riot, Castlmorten rave, battle of the bean field, last night of
The Trip etc. Ideas on a postcard to L-13.org if we get enough postcards we might even do it.
A new publication will be produced by the Society of Spectacles to coincide with ESTATE.
The publication will include new material by acclaimed Scottish writers Laura Hird and Gordon Legge.
This will be the first new work to be published by both writers for several years.
The publication will be available during ESTATEEdinburgh and at www.societyofspectacles.co.uk.