James Cauty Creates A Miniaturised Post Apocalyptic World In New Exhibition

James Cauty

It has been nearly two years since James Cauty created his memorable Riot In A Jam Jar exhibition at the L-13 Gallery in London. His new offering enters a miniaturised, post-apocalyptic world: frozen in time, diminished destroyed, burned, looted, abandoned, derelict, devoid of people, of all life, apart from a swell of police. This is The Aftermath Dislocation Principle Part I, a vast 448 sq ft, 1:87 scale model (approx 1 square mile) detailing the desolate charred aftermath of what appears to have been a crazy and devastating mass riot. The rioters are no-where to be seen – maybe they’ve been rounded up already, maybe they are in hiding – the only visible populace are the 5,000 or so police at the scene and they appear bewildered, perplexed to the extreme. They’re there with the vans, the weapons, the armour, all the paraphernalia of control and quell.  But watch them peer nervously over the edge of ripped up motorways, or chunks of torn-up land mass.  Regard their poses of confusion and subjugation.   Stranded now, without anyone left to control, bully, kettle or arrest, they are faced with the realisation that the devastated riot zone they’ve secured, is the end of the world: not nigh, but now.  They are adrift in a dislocated and terrifying reality, reduced to being mere spectacles of post-dystopian imaginings for an alarmist culture.

The Aftermath Dislocation Principle Part II, offers both potential answers and consumerist consolation.  Exhibition-going today most often culminates in – even depends on – the gift shop experience, and visitors to James Cauty’s bleak dystopian world won’t be disappointed.   ADP II is both an extended exhibition and commercial outlet, presenting a display of around 300 jam jars, each for sale and each containing a strange kind of associated narrative to the main event.  Locked inside the glass jars are isolated vignettes of the riot: two kids gesticulating furiously at a policeman as he stands over a dead puppy; rioters trashing monuments or vehicles, a young boy seemingly debating with an officer, two figures in full contagion zone dress holding a naked boy aloft like a new-born, a lone policeman sitting dejected on a sidewalk; gangs jumping on overturned cars; isolated conflicts frozen in pose and time; Blood, carnage, battle, anarchy.  Inside these jars, preserved, fetishised, is the action, the answers, the breaking news.  It’s safe for us to pick them up, pay for them and take them home as a souvenir.  The violence is contained, tidy, palatable, served to us in such a way that we might put them on the mantelpiece.  Plus they’re works of art after all: James Cauty limited Editions, signed and numbered in small editions of 5 or 10, set on a display plinth and packaged in a special crate both designed by internationally acclaimed designer Piet Hein Eek.

The Aftermath Dislocation Principle Parts I and II were born out of Cauty’s previous and highly acclaimed exhibition, Riot in a Jam Jar, which was presented at L-13 in May 2011.  Partly triggered by the G20 riots, Cauty was also fascinated by the media reportage, by the way that from the safety of our homes, we could watch the riots, privately sympathising or condemning the action, involved but as a spectator, and only for as long as the news bulletin lasted.  Re-creating scenes (based on real events and fictional) in miniature and bottling them in jars primarily associated with cosy domestic life, allowed Cauty to present snapshots of spectacular but mediated super-reality, one-liners, micro revolutions as ornament, tiny acts of violence contained but speaking of a greater and vastly more complex reality.  And it was this sense of the wider landscape, of the implications and aftermath of rioting that led Cauty to develop ADP Part I, almost as a prequel to these isolated miniatures.  The landscape becomes a desolate context for the miniaturised and locked-in jam-jar scenes, showing the devastation uncontained, concurrently presenting both the beginning and end of the world.  Here the audience can actually circle the scene, zoom into areas, pull back and survey the whole: a bizarre take on the model village: entertainment gone mad.

ADP Part I is the result of months of labour – intensive work.  Using components from traditional model making kits, Cauty constructed this hinterland with absolute precision before systematically – a symbolic lone act of transgression – shattering it.   Windows were smashed, buildings broken into, churches burned, landscape charred, roads torn up, cars upturned.  Ironically the level of care and creativity that went into the destruction of the ‘perfect’ model world denies it being a purely destructive activity. It’s hard work setting the world to wrong.   As Cauty comments: “Nothing is quite what it seems, and yet it is exactly as it seems.”

Over the past 30 years James Cauty has distinguished himself as a musician, artist and cultural provocateur through fusions of high art and popularist mediums – often to spectacular, controversial effect.  From a string of number one hits as founder and member of The KLF, to implementation of the collective, The K-Foundation and the seminal action, Watch the K-Foundation Burn a Million Quid, (1994) to later artistic experiments with sonic weapons, stamp collecting and model making, dissent, cultural subversion and a gleeful level of high humour are elemental to all the work whilst never failing engage its audience in critical pleasure.

James Cauty: The Aftermath Dislocation Principle Parts I and II  A small world re-enactment spectacular 7– 19 October 2013  Hoxton Arches, Arch 402 Cremer Street, London E2 8HD

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Stamps of Mass Destruction 10 Years On Legacy Edition. Bronze, Silver and Gold. James Cauty made the original 1st, 2nd and 3rd Class Definitive SMD in 2003 in response to the Iraq War. The Royal Mail then attempted to sue him for misuse of their intellectual property. James Cauty apologized without prejudice or admitting liability, and promised not to do it again. 10 years on he has decided it is time to do it again.

James Cauty Creates A Miniaturised Post Apocalyptic World In New Exhibition