At first, the K Foundation appeared confident about this provocative performance. They had certainly mastered "about-speak", the indispensable dialect for the contemporary artist. "It's about controlling the money," they said. This seemed naive - the long history of incineration shows that, whether you're burning people or books, fear is often the principal motive. And, six months after their expensive bonfire, the gesture appears to have left the taste of ashes in the mouth. Drummond and Cauty are suffering for their art, plagued by "the possibility that it's a load of rubbish and complete waste of time".
The Omnibus film about this intriguing pair was in part a rear-guard action in their continuing battle for recognition (and a victory - for some people, after all, art is what appears on Omnibus). It was also a peculiarly modern fable about what constitutes an artist - will the artist's say-so do, or do you need the validation of the galleries? "You can't simply decide you're going to become an artist," said one gallery owner haughtily, which left you wondering how else the vocation might operate. A lottery system? Secret-ballot election?
For my money (meagre though it is), the video which recorded the laborious process of immolation was a decidedly intriguing work - rather more provoking than some contemporary work I've seen. For established galleries, the medium used (video, bank-notes, fire) is obviously an embarrassment, but if poverty of material is not to disqualify artworks (bricks or lard, say) why should the expense of material? Omnibus ended with reversed film of the fire, clumps of notes fluttering from the flames into the stokers' hands. I don't know whether this was a directorial stroke or part of the K Foundation's original film, but it was a brilliant touch: a dream of restoration, well worth the price of admission.
Panorama: Class Struggle (BBC1), a report on the difficulties of improving teaching standards, will have made depressing viewing for anyone with school-age children. After years in which politicians have heaped indiscriminate odium on teachers, it is hardly surprising that the profession should be feeling aggressive. But, as Panorama's case histories revealed, the resulting wariness can have damaging effects. Anecdotal evidence like this hardly constitutes a conclusive case, but the story of the probationary teacher, supported by union and education authority against the headmaster who believed she was failing, suggested that priorities in some schools are upside down, placing the rights of teachers to continued employment over the rights of pupils. I don't know whether this woman is a good or bad teacher but she didn't do her case much good by using the words "sort of" 10 times in only 40 seconds of muddled speech.
There was a consolation - the account of a school that had been turned around by an enthusiastic headmaster. He had a paradoxical advantage: the school's reputation was so bad that no experienced teachers applied for jobs there. As a result, he ended up working with teachers too young and inexperienced to be affronted by his expectations.Reuse content