Will Gimpertz is a made-up journalist. His most famous piece of made up journalism concerned the artist Jack Dawes and his almost certainly unintentional burning of a billion pounds of The Ontological Agnostics money. That article is reproduced at the end of this post, with no one’s kind permission.
Will Gimpertz is a made-up journalist who has apparated into two of my books, TOGETHER and FOREVE2. These books are best acquired here or from outside a blue shipping container in a car park in Sheffield for the next 23 days.
Will Gimpertz is a made-up journalist who has somehow written an article in the real world. The article was an interview with The Town Planner. It can be consumed here.
Here is an accompanying image of the Park Hill ESTATE, Sheffield.
And here is that made-up article by a made-up journalist who is now apparently strutting all over South Yorkshire interviewing Town Planners.
BILLION DOLLAR BONFIRE
How Jack Dawes Took Art To The End Of The Line
Saigon. 11th June 1963. At the intersection of Phan Đình Phùng Boulevard and Lê Văn Duyệt Street, Thích Quảng Đức emerged from a sky-blue car along with two other monks. One placed a cushion on the road while the second opened the trunk and took out a five-gallon petrol can. As other monks joined and formed a circle around him, Đức calmly sat down in the traditional Buddhist meditative lotus position on the cushion. A colleague emptied the contents of the petrol container over Đức’s head. Đức rotated a string of wooden prayer beads and recited the words “Nam Mô A Di Dà Phât” before striking a match and dropping it on himself. Flames rapidly consumed his robes and flesh, and oily black smoke gushed from his burning body.
Once the fire subsided, a group of monks covered the smoking corpse with yellow robes and removed it from the scene.
Later, the body was re-cremated during a funeral, but Đức’s heart remained intact and would not burn. At the time, US President Kennedy said that “no single news picture in history has generated so much emotion around the world as that one.”
Over the next seven years, five US citizens were inspired by Đức’s actions. Alice Herz, 82, Norman Morrison, 31, Roger Allen LaPorte, 22, Florence Beaumont, 55, Bruce Mayrock, 20, and twenty-three-year-old George Winne Jr, all doused themselves in kerosene and set themselves alight to protest against the Vietnam War. In Vietnam itself, 23 more Buddhists monks followed the example of Đức before the war was over.
For the rest of the twentieth century, self-immolations occurred across the globe, often in clusters across a few hours or days, in India, China, the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc. They were oppressed or displaced citizens, rejected asylum seekers, angry protesters with no way out. They were all, without exception, of sound mind.
Tonight, over half a century later, backstage at The Ontological Agnostics concert, journalists from around the world are attempting to draw parallels between that Vietnamese Buddhist monk and the apparent suicide of artist Jack Dawes.
When Dawes arrived on the art scene, a few years ago, he was hailed as the ultimate outsider artist. With no classical training or art school background, his abstract sculptures hewn from cemented brick stacks spoke for a generation of the trampled hopes and unfulfilled dreams of the working classes. His first major exhibition, BRICK OUT THE JAMS, explored his battle with mental illness and the undiagnosed blackouts during which his sculptures mysteriously manifested. Wooed and courted by the art collecting elite, he soon fell under the spell of The Catashi Foundation who funded and devoured his subsequent work with increasing intensity. After two further installations at Tate Modern, BRICK BY BRICK, a study of the literal division of North America in Flemish Bonded Burnt Clay Brick, and the anti-capitalist ANY COLOUR YOU LIKE, the art community held its breath for his much-anticipated magnum opus, the cryptically named FIRE IN THE HEART.
Rumours abounded that the work was using unique, organic brick materials and was to be unveiled somewhere in the North of England. The rare interviews he gave around the time were often incoherent, full of outlandish claims of secret knowledge and communications with deceased artists.
As the completion date approached, intricate conspiracy theories became mainstream news stories. FIRE IN THE HEART was speculatively decoded as PYRE IN THE MIDDLE or PYR-A-MID, while amateur internet sleuths began to cross-reference and connect the desecration of the graves of many, famous artists across the last 400 years.
Then, on 2nd of March of this year, Dawes shocked the art world and announced his retirement from sculpture and his desire to work as a van driver. Sotheby’s auctioned a single brick, said to have been fired around a GPS transponder containing the location of FIRE IN THE HEART. Bids opened at a world record shattering $500 million dollars and closed a symbolic dollar short of $1 billion, sold to an anonymous consortium. Dawes promptly donated 99% of the sale price to the Venezuelan Disaster Fund Collection and vanished from the spotlight leaving only the faintest trail of brick dust and broken hearted Sugababes.
His self-imposed obscurity lasted for just under six months until he appeared today on grainy security camera footage from The Dyson Space Centre. After several stops at checkpoints, Dawes is seen driving his delivery van through a restricted area to end up directly under the blast zone of the KAOS23 launch pad. Paperwork suggests he perished along with £1 billion in used £50 notes.
The money burning calls to mind the art-pranksters The KLF and their burning a £1 million on the Scottish island of Jura, but in that case, the two artists involved walked away relatively unscathed. What sets this new work from Dawes apart from that earlier money burning is the aspect of self-immolation and sacrifice, putting the artist at the very heart of the art.
No doubt, future forensic art historians will assemble grainy CCTV footage, GPS tracking maps and the ash covered launch pad into an installation of sorts, but the enduring legacy of Dawes’ final work will be its frustrating lack of documentation and instantaneous creation and destruction.
All that will endure will be the idea of it and the question ‘WHY?’