HOW LUTHER BLISSETT REACHED
"CHI L'HA VISTO?"
AND TOOK THE ATTENTION OF THE TV COPS
OFF THE RUNAWAYS
by Luther Blissett
Chi l'ha visto? is a prime-time TV show on the Italian public television, a weekly live broadcast whose ugly mission is searching for the missing persons, e.g. teenagers who left home, wives who deserted husband and children, patients escaped from the madhouse and even draft dodgers. The editorial staff may be compared to the Antivice Squad and the anchor-woman Giovanna Milella is a malignant personification of all the middle-class hearth' n' home ideals which anyone who loves freedom should hate. The name of the show is translatable as "Has Anybody Seen Them?", in fact the leading part in the manhunting is played by the audience which Milella exhorts to call the show and co-operate. The studio is filled up with crying parents, angry wives or husbands, psychiatrists, kindred and friends of the missing one etc.
In January 1995 Luther Blissett, a well-known cultural terrorist, managed to make "Chi l'ha visto?" cut a fucking poor figure and put the TV cops in the pillory of media gossip. To tell the truth, Luther Blissett is not simply ONE cultural terrorist, rather it is a multiple name which anybody can use to claim an action of cultural terrorism. Luther Blissett is MANY cultural terrorists.
There is no evidence of the use of this multiple name in Italy before the Autumn 1994. Anyone who makes use of the name may invent a different origin of the project. In Italy there is a rumour that a British body-artist called Harry Kipper borrowed the name from a Jamaican soccer player of the early Eighties. At first Kipper used the name as a personal tag to sign his performances, then he decided to turn Blissett into an 'open character' whose reputation would be ever re-created by anyone interested. Anyone could be Luther Blissett and dowel his/her reputation simply by adopting the name and spreading new rumours.
Two Harry Kippers truly existed, they were a UK-based body-art duo going by the name of Kipper Kids, but I suppose they had nothing to do with the origin of this multiple name. However, some of their performances became tesserae of the Kipper's legend, actually an Italian sub-directory of the Luther Blissett Project. It was a collective work of faction.
In November 1994 unknown persons decided to cement the founding myth by morphing both males and females faces, and got "the only portrait of Harry Kipper put into circulation", which became the androgynous Blissett' s icon.
After we made this imaginary founder up, the Luther Blissett Project began to develope upon two levels of simulation: that of the origin, which was ever going into new details, and that of the multiple name itself. Up to and including today, nobody can tell what is true from what is false.
In December 1994, I got the bright idea of staging the disappearance of Harry Kipper during a trip to Italy, spreading rumours and gradually approaching "Chi l' ha visto?". We also had to insinuate the suspicion that the disappearance itself could be a Kipper's performance, i.e. an allegory of the death of the Artist as described by the bourgeois ideology of "genius" and acknowledged by the copyright. Kipper had to apparently stress that the whole world is a manifold global performance in which EVERYBODY (consciously or not) TAKES PART IN CREATING EVERYTHING, thus no creation is wholly individual. On the first level of simulation, Kipper had to free the Luther Blissett Project from any founder and origin, to let it jettison ballast and take off.
On the second level of simulation, the prank was an assault on "Chi l'ha visto?" and an opportunity to test the networking of the people using the multiple name. We fabricated a likely story and put some probable truth in it, then we gave it out to the ANSA, a national press-agency, which propagated the news from its offices in Udine, Friuli, North-eastern Italy. This occured on January 3rd, at night. The following day, all the regional newspapers flared headlines on "A British Artist Disappeared in Friuli" and textually quoted the ANSA release, which had textually quoted our fax.
Here is one of the articles:
"Il messaggero veneto", 1 aprile 95
AN ARTIST DISAPPEARS: S.O.S. FROM LONDON TO FRIULI
Other details were contained in the article from "Il Piccolo":
[...] Once arrived in our region, Kipper had decided to ideally trace the word "ART" in Friuli too, starting from Pordenone. He reached Maniago, Sauris and Codroipo to trace the "A", then Tolmezzo, Gemona, San Daniele and Mortegliano to trace the "R" and finally Udine, Pontebba, Tarvisio and Treppo Carnico for the "T". Then he came back to Bertiolo [...]
The tale we had sent to the ANSA was complete with the Kipper's portrait, the psychotopographical maps "ART IN EUROPE" and "ART IN FRIULI" and some phone numbers of the Bolognese and Friulan "artists" who had given hospitality to Kipper (in reality, they were largely anarchists, transmaniacs, psychogeographers and so on). The projects by Piermario Ciani were real and true, so it was another case of faction.
On January 6th the "Chi l'ha visto?" editorial staff called my phone number in Bologna: they said they were fascinated by the Kipper's undertaking and wanted to report his journey and disappearance from London to Bologna and Udine. I conferred with the London, Bologna and Friuli comrades, and answered in the affermative. Four days after, a TV crew came to Bologna in order to reconstruct his shiftings and acquaintances and to grasp what the fuck was "psychogeography"!
This is approximately what we answered to their questions:
Kipper was in Bologna from June 29th to July 8th. In those ten days he attended the founding of the Associazione Psicogeografica di Bologna, and suggested all the members to make use of the multiple name. Then he headed for Ancona and the Adriatic Riviera. In August 10th he arrived in Udine, where he met Ciani (who had been the conceiver of the performance) in the studios of Radio Onde Furlane. Ciani suggested him to stay and trace a word "ART" in Friuli too. Three days after this suggestion, Kipper moved from Bertiolo to Pordenone to start tracing the "A". Two weeks later he came back to Bertiolo and said he had completed the word, but he inexplicably seemed to be sad. During the first week of September he headed for Trieste. None of us heard from him anymore till his phone call to Stewart Home. After another month of silence, Stewart informed by telephone both Ciani and us, so we started searching.
In January both the APB and Luther Blissett were not yet known as something subversive, so we managed to disguise ourselves as "artists". We were told by a member of the crew called Fiore di Rienzo that the editorial staff assumed the disappearance was a sort of performance by Kipper. Poor idiots! The following day the TV cops arrived in Udine, where the comrades confirmed our account on the Kipper's shiftings.
This is the short article by which a local newspaper informed that "Chi l'ha visto?" was in town:
"Il gazzettino del Friuli", 1 dicembre 1995
"CHI L'HA VISTO?" ON KIPPER'S TRACKS
Even "Chi l'ha visto?" is on the trail of Harry Kipper, the English performance artist who disappeared in Friuli several weeks ago. Yesterday a troupe from the Channel 3 show came in town to know more details on this personage who had arranged with the Friulan Piermario Ciani a conceptual performance, that is a cycle ride by which he wanted to link up various Friulan towns and trace the word "ART".
The troupe visited Radio Onde Furlane, which before Christmas had broadcasted a series of spots to find Harry Kipper, and interviewed Paolo Cantarutti from the review "Usmis" (on which Ciani had published the map of the performance) and the mail-artist from Rovigo Alberto Rizzi, acquainted with Kipper. According to the director of the show, this disappearance may be just a conceptual artwork which the English artist put into effect.
Two days later the troupe reached London and interviewed Stewart Home and Fabian Tompsett of the London Psychogeographical Association. Stewart and Fabian even showed them the former Kipper's house (a half-demolished building somewhere in the East End).
The reportage was ready for being broadcasted when a tip-off made the TV cops stop the whole thing. Unfortunately a free-lance correspondent of "Chi l'ha visto?" living in Udine had heard some rumours and concluded that not only the disappearance was a performance, but even the Kipper's existence was a practical joke. So the editorial staff decided not to risk their reputation and replaced the preannounced reportage just in time. However their move was useless because we had already given the prank out to the national papers, so the case bursted out, with such headlines as "Cyber-prank on 'Chi l'ha visto?'", "They made a fool of Milella", "Searching for Kipper who does not exist!" etc. The papers published excerpts of our vindicatory statement:
[...] We did not want only to throw discredit on the show, but also put their inquiring eyes off the track and make them waste their time following an unexisting person, so that the real runaways might stay and last anonymous and uncontrolled [...]
("Il Resto del Carlino" 1/20/95)
[...] "Chi l'ha visto?" is a nazi-pop expression of the need of control [...]
This is the ending of an article appeared on "Il Gazzettino" (1/20/95):
"This name, Luther Blissett, is used as a multiple alias to sign and vindicate counter-cultural actions, demonstrations, boycotts and press releases in order to create a myth based on improbability and shadiness. It is impossible to find a single author in this prank [...] Thus we are all victims of Luther Blissett, but we are accessories too, and no one in particular is responsible. It is a thing that makes you think, Blissett nearly reached TV..."
And this is the ending of our statement ("Come fu che Luther Blissett quasi arrivò a 'Chi l'ha visto?', Bologna, 16/1/1995):
"This was the most relevant proof of the effectiveness of techniques like the multiple name, techniques which allow many different revolutionary subjects to network without identitary mistrusts or paranoic suspicions, so that they can effortlessly influence the collective imagination. It's much better than the useless complaints on the omnipotence of the spectacle. Become Luther Blissett!".