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<nettime> The Luther Blissett Enigma

>From "The Wire" # 199, september 2000:


The Luther Blissett enigma

Footballing icon, virtual pop star, or the product of rogue Situationists'
fevered imaginations?  Following the release of an Italian tribute CD, Ken
Hollings investigates the origins of the Luther Blissett legend.

On pages 40 and 41:

Dawn of the replicants

Football hero, cloned avatar of the radical art underground, and now virtual
pop star: just who is Luther Blissett, exactly? Words: Ken Hollings


In March 1997, according to BBC Online Network News, four young Italians were
stopped on a train without tickets. When asked for their names, they all
replied: "Luther Blissett". Hauled into court, "the quartet of activists"
still insisted that each was called Luther Blissett.  A multiple identity of
mystorious origin that first surfaced in Italy in the mid-90s. Luther
Blissett has mantained a viral presence ever since. "Anyone can be Luther
Blissett simply by adopting the name Luther Blissett", proclaims a Luther
Blissett manifesto, ending with an encouragement to all its readers to
"Become Luther Blissett". An epistemologic cloning operation had taken place.
Luther Blissett could be anyone and consequently do anything, anywhere at any
time from fare dodging on the Italian railways to writing a best-selling
novel, committing suicide, releasing a CD or playing for AC Milan in the
early 1980s. "Multiple names are connected to radical theories of play", 
writer Stewart Home observed at the Festival of Plagiarism back in 1988. "The
idea is to create an 'open situation' for which no one in particular is
responsible. Some proponents of the concept also claim that is a way to
'pratical examine, and break down, Western philosophic notions of identity,
individuality, value and truth'".

Multiple maniacs

Stewart Home, who was done much to analyse and propagate the multiple 
identity Monty Cantsin - "the first open pop star" proposed by mail artist
David Zack - and his own "multiple pen name Karen Eliot, was equally
enthusiastic about the Luther Blissett Phenomenon. "As far as I am
concerned", he wrote in 1995, "Luther Blissett is easily the best multiple
name to date, precisely because of the conscious use of a 'creation myth' to
detach the project from those who initiated it". But who then is the
creature, and who the creator? Is Luther Blissett a real person?  (...)

The last signifier on Earth

Luther Blissett as Pop Star is an overloaded cultural tautology: a virtual
social reality capable of emphasising itself out of existence, just as hit
after hit  on the same Website can finally make it crash into bitterness.
obscurity and indifference. (...) Luther Blissett's best-selling novel Q, set
in 16th century Germany, has shifted over 60,000 units in Italy alone,
prompting speculation about Dino De Laurentis snapping up the film rights and
rumours of Posh Spice stepping into the starring role. Meanwhile, the 26 May
1997 edition of "Der Spiegel", in an article covering Luther Blissett's
German activities, explicity named philosopher Umberto Eco as being one of 
those responsible for the entire Luther Blissett Project. Is this assertion
any more true for having appeared in a reputable weekly magazine? Would Eco's
denial be any more plausible if it were made in person? What does William
Gibson mean when he announces that he's "met Bowie and Jagger and I'm kind of
on speaking terms with U2 now"? Is that the same U2 whose record company sued
barbed Berkeley interventionists Negativland for $ 90,000 and demanded that
they withdraw their CD, titled U2, arguing that the public might not be able
to tell the difference between the two groups? The electronic plain upon
which mass communication takes place is transformed into an assault course.
The media prank become a seance, invoking faces and voices that are 
simultaneously familiar yet removed.  "As we live in a world where the official
version is invariably bullshit, and the media is a part of the plot to
maintain the status quo", comments Charlie Holmes of WOT4 Records,
responsible for releasing Luther Blissett - The Open Pop Star, a CD anthology
of work by people involved in the Luther Blissett insurgency, "a group, or
groups, who deliberately provoke any kind of alternative way of thinking has
got to be a positive step. The political situation in Italy is totally
chaotic. The only thing for sure is that the politicians are corrupt and make
vast fortunes. Luther Blissett is an interesting ingredients.

Revolutionary seppuku

The cops and SISDE, the Italian civil intelligence, were also interested. In
the summer of 1995, a Radio Blissett late-night broadcast on Radio Citt=E0
Futura in Rome resulted in a spontaneous rave on a bus, which was eventually
broken up by the police, resulting in violence and arrests. A week later the
station was asked to supply the names of those responsible for Radio
Blissett, but Radio Citt=E0 Futura refused, threating tomake public tapes of
the show, which includes the sound, recorded over a mobile phone, of a cop
firing shots into the air. The incident can be heard on "Phychick ATAC", The
Open Pop Star's opening track. Right on cue, the cop fires into the air; a
bitmappedaudio detonation set against a mid-80s Industrial mix of Richard
Wagner's "Ride Of The Valkyries" and Tibetan monks chanting. All events are 
recostructions. Detail detach themselves and take on a life of their own.
Described by Charlie Holmes as "an index of the various people or groups who
have been involved with cultivating the Luther Blissett deception", The Open
Pop Star is composed of fragments, asides, collaborations and interventions
by Stewart Home with co-conspirator Peter Horobine repeating "Monty Can't
Sin" from the CyberSadism Live CD; The Association Of Autonomous Astronauts
contemplating the implications of zero-gravity genitalia on "A Insurrei=E7ao
Erotica" (note: the title is a portougese translation of Giorgio Cesarano
book), Merzbow's "Floating Elroy" taking the left channel against Ladybird's
"If You Lift Me Up" on the right and a remix of Klasse Kriminale's "Mind
Invaders", with lyrics by Luther Blissett. Oracle 90's "I'm Everyone"
features a computer-generated voice spinning off into metaphysical rambling
on identity and ubiquity. Mail artist Ray Johnson, suspected of authoring 
The Luther Blissett Manifesto, is represented  by "Totem"; and Piero Cannata,
responsible for performance art strikes on both Michelangelo's David and
Jackson Pollock's painting Undulating Paths, provides vocals for
"Antigrammatica". "Tomorrow Piero Cannata will go back to the madhouse,
"reads an accompanying note (from Luther Blissett), "and it's gonna take
decades before he's acknowledged as a well-deserving peformer... This is one
of the tasks we leave to our posterity".  Posterity has already begun, since
Luther Blissett committed seppuku on 1 January 2000. A messy business
involving disembowelling , this act of ritual suicide cuts straight to the
traditional seat and substance of amotional identity, the stomach. The four
individuals responsible for putting out the novel Q have now revealed their
real identities.Various theories still sorround Eco's involvement in the
whole affair, however. "Some say he is Luther Blissett and supporting the
Left Wing Governement", runs a communications from WOT4 Records. "Some say he
is weaving a trail of misinformation to cover the tracks of Masonic 
organisations like P2, which he is reputed to be a part of and therefore 
supports Silvio Berlusconi and the Right Wing opposition. Either way the 
political situation in Italy is very unstable, and things could be coming to
a crunch soon".

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