Bill Drummond is an artist, but not one of those traditional artists who paint a landscape on a canvas, he is more of a situationist who prefers to stage stunts to gather interesting life experiences for himself and others. Currently he is on a twelve year stint around the world, where he will alight in cities that mean something to him, from his own past, and perform various acts in each such as baking cakes to hand out to lucky recipients, or building a bed for him to sleep on for one night, then gift it to anyone who wants it through means of a raffle. But the precise reason why he is compelled to act out these events is something that even Drummond may not be able to pin down...
Funnily enough, there had been a time when Drummond's antics chimed with the wider public, and that was when he was part of dance rock band The KLF, which though few were aware of it at the time, was every bit as much the behaviour of art pranksters as his smaller projects. At least until at the Brit Awards, at the height of their fame, they threw a dead sheep at the audience of record executives and fired machine guns in their general direction (they were firing blanks, but obviously wanted to put the wind up the attendees). After that, their punk rock spirit was more apparent, culminating in their setting alight of a block of one million pounds in banknotes shortly afterwards.
So you get the idea: some would see these stunts as genius, while others would think Drummond and his cohort Jimmy Cauty were berks who were squandering their money that they could just as easily have given to charity if they were that uncomfortable being rich. But from this distance, and on watching Drummond in this rather casual portrait of him as he has reached his sixties, you can build a picture of a man who wished to impose meaning on the meaningless, and who regarded life in its entirety as much as you made it for yourself. If you wanted to make money, do that, if you wanted a family, concentrate there, if you wanted to give yourself in to culture, that was possible too.
At various points our subject has done all those things, but it is the cultural element that appeals to him most, despite there maybe not being as many people around who remained interested in what the ex-KLF were doing in the twenty-first century. The only person you can truly please is yourself, would seem to be the lesson here, but Drummond was so allied to his philosophy of art that he had a reluctance to explain his activities, preferring handwave it all down to art, which in itself would have you pondering the exact meaning of that, should you be so engaged, and then perhaps only for a matter of seconds before you moved on to what was important for you. Drummond, however, stayed commendably dedicated to turning his existence into a statement of expression, even if he did not quite understand his own actions.
Maybe he did, maybe the joke was on us who were still intrigued by what he had to say, but on this evidence, he could be very hard work to hold a conversation with, so cagey was he about being pinned down when there was art to be adhered to. He must have a wealth of anecdotes, but he is reluctant to share them - we get his meeting with Michael Jackson which amounted to the megastar walking into the KLF's studio accidentally then turning on his heel and leaving with a "Sorry!", but that is it for any material he could have related on a chat show or on the pages of an autobiography. We see two of his global excursions, first to Kolkata and second to Lexington, where the locals are tolerant of him in the main and it's actually quite charming to witness ordinary folks from different sides of the world behaving with the same goodnatured yet inquisitive welcome to this eccentricity in their midst. That could be the effects of bemusement, never underestimate that, but as an offbeat travelogue Best Before Death was as good as many in the field.