Well it’s that time of year again Acowlytes, and as the world (quite inevitably) starts to become jaded by International Talk Like a Pirate Day, those of us who were pirates long before the fad came along, and will be pirates long after it fades, raise a cup o’ grog and drink to the the spirit unfettered minds and uncluttered horizons.

This year on The Cow I aim to repurpose ITLAPD into something a little more meaningful – a celebration of free thinking and provocation in the face of parochialism and institutionalization. Herewith on each ITLAPD The Cow will acknowledge someone who, in some manner or other, fearlessly challenges the status quo and questions authority after the fashion of a true pirate.

To kick off, since we’ve just been talking about the Cartrain/Damien Hirst wrangle, we tip our hat to the L-13 Light Industrial Workshop and its mouthpiece Red Rag To A Bull who describes itself as:

…a radical institution dedicated to the pursuit of “FREEDOM, TRUTH and JUSTICE in the art world and BEYOND”, and overblown statements. It was founded by a cartel of rich and powerful light industrialists in the depths of the bleak winter of 2009 when the world was on the brink of total financial collapse.

Red Rag To A Bull and L-13 have been champions to Cartrain over the last year, running their Street Urchins Art Appeal in order to raise enough money to reimburse him for the cash that Hirst’s original legal action cost. They did this by creating and selling meta-parodies of Cartrain’s parodies of Hirst’s work. You gotta love that endless spiral of iteration and self-referentialism.

L-13 also produce some rather remarkable work in their own right. This will come as no surprise to anyone who recognizes Jimmy Cauty as the name behind them. Cauty is perhaps better known for being one half of the KLF, and later, with Alex Paterson, as The Orb – the architects of the Ambient House genre.

With L-13 and RRTAB, Cauty continues to sock it to the narrow-minded, the clueless and the haughty in the manner they truly deserve. A recent Red Rag To A Bull manifesto says in part:

Unlike Cartrain and his gallery we are not intimidated by lawyers, and if an injunction is issued we will simply ignore it on the grounds of freedom of expression. We also operate a ‘copyright out of control’ policy which in our world makes us immune from prosecution…

If they aren’t the words of a true pirate, I’m handing in my wooden leg. So, here’s to you, James Cauty and crew. May your seas always be calm and your powder dry.


(I’m posting this early Acowlytes, because on the 19th the full Curse of the Black Cow takes hold and there’s no telling how much sense anything will make for the day. If ever you wanted to Ride the Mad Cow, that’s truly the time to do it).