Selected excerpts from:
Come fottere i media. Manuale di guerriglia e sabotaggio culturale
(Castelvecchi, Rome 1995)
[This book is not] a theoretical summing-up of the early phases of the Luther Blissett Project (not that it doesn't look like that). Rather, it is a dérive through the phenomena and signals of a new way of thinking and changing everyday life. Nowadays it is possible to achieve the essential unity of dreamtime and action, towards a total liberation. In order to achieve that unity. it is necessary to get rid of the concept of In-dividuum, once and for all. That concept is deeply reactionary, anthropocentric and forever associated with such concepts as originality and copyright. Instead, we ought to embrace the idea of a Con-dividuum, i.e. a multiple singularity whose unfolding entails new definitions of "responsibility" and "will", and is no good for lawyers and judges.
Any single body-mind (any -dividuum) is endlessly invested by vortical fluxes of communications which supercede the boundaries of the individual body and create an unsettled, ready-made community of singularities. Con-dividuality. Anti-copyright plagiarism, multiple names and counter-networking have been - and still are - important stages on our way to con-dividuality.
In an episode of Star Trek. The Next Generation titled 'Darmok' (star date 45047.2), the crew of the Enterprise meet the obscure and mysterious Tamarians, whose language is incomprehensible to humans and all other peoples of the Federation. Tamarian language sounds like a list of names and dates, none of their sentences has any logical or syntactical coherence.
In the course of the episode our heroes find out that the Tamarians are citing events out of their history and mythology, events which represent real linguistic precedents/records by which they are able to speak any here-and-now circumstances. For example: "Shakah when the walls tumbled down" may mean failure, "I have made a mistake" or even "Fucking hell!". Likewise, "Tembah, his arms open wide" may be translated with 'generosity', "Please accept this gift" or "Thank you for the gift". "Mirah, his unfurled sails" means an escape, a runaway, "Let's go away" or even "I'm going". "The river Temark in the winter" approximately means immobility, "Don't move!' or 'Shut up!'. "Sindah, his face black and his eyes red" means death, dying, about to die etc.
Tamarian language is not logical/referential - it is symbolic, imaginative, iconic, analogic. Its evolution didn't need the definition of what we use to call 'identity'. As far as the audience can understand, this is not a totalitarian "conformation" in the context of an organic society - in plainer words, singular differences are not flattened out either in the name of a tradition or of an un-critical monumental memory. On the contrary, Tamarians collectively draw from a treasure of stories and images which is constantly modified. Their inter-personal relations are kind of a role play during which each -dividuum appropriates and then jettisons all roles and "identities". To them this sharing of experiences and emotions, indeed this community, is not in contradiction with being "singular", because they are not in-dividuals, their ego is manifold and multiversal, their subjectivity is decentralised. Therefore, there is no real distinction between subject, predicate and object: such phrases as those quoted above are constructed on a generic sense of "failing", "giving", "going" and "standing still", actions that are quietly accepted as complex, rich in meanings and irreducible to any logical analysis. This creates situations which cannot be defined by language nor trapped into it.
Script-writers Philip Labeznik and Joe Menosky are good readers. They certainly know Nietzsche's Twilight Of The Idols:
'In its origin language belongs in the age of the most rudimentary form of psychology. We enter a realm of crude fetishism when we summon before consciousness the basic presuppositions of the metaphysics of language, in plain talk, the presuppositions of reason. Everywhere it sees a doer and doing; it believes in will as the cause; it believes in the ego, in the ego as being, in the ego as substance, and it projects this faith in the ego-substance upon all things-only thereby does it first create the concept of "thing." Everywhere "being" is thought in, foisted on, pushed underneath-as the cause; the concept of being follows, and is a derivative of, the concept of ego. [...] "Reason" in language-oh, what an old deceptive female she is! I am afraid we are not rid of God because we still have faith in grammar.'
Tamarian language is not secret nor exclusive, it is not a jargon which the community creates to protect itself from the outside. Indeed, Tamarians want to share their imaginary and memory, expand and enrich their mythology in order to understand and make themselves understood. In fact, since it is impossible to communicate with them without knowing the same myths, it takes new ones, thus Daton, the captain of the Tamarian spaceship, gets himself and captain Jean-Luc Picard tele-transported on Eladril IV, an uninhabited planet where they have to co-operate and stand the destructive irradiation of an unknown creature made of pure energy. This situation is inspired by that known as "Darmok and Tjalad in Tanagra", i.e. two heroes of Tamarian mythology, both trapped on an island inhabited by a dangerous beast). Anyone watching this episode won't forget Datohn's exultation when Picard starts to grasp his messages: "Sukat, his eyes not covered anymore". Only Picard survives, yet the record is set: from now on, Tamarians and Federates will express their will to communicate by saying: "Picard and Daton on Eladril".
I could content myself with saying that a multiple name is a shield by which we defend ourselves from the powers-that-be whenever they try to identify and find their enemies, a weapon in the hands of those whom Marx ironically described as "the bad side" of society. In Stanley Kubrick's Spartacus (USA, 1960), every defeated slave captured by Crassus claims to be Spartacus, just as all Zapatistas are Marcos and all of me are Luther Blissett.
I'm not satisfied though - a multiple name is constructive as well, it aims at founding an open myth, an easy-going and modifiable one in the context of a Tamarian network of events. Trouble is, as regards what a myth is we still have to come to an understanding.
The word "myth" is generally used to define something not real. The tales which anthropologists describe as "myths" describe events that never took place. As a matter of fact, story-tellers do not expect the myths to happen again, for the latter belong to a distant "age of miracles", before the very beginning of this world. Yet it is a mistake to regard the myth as little more than mistified history: it is an act of institution, i.e. the story of the first time somebody did the very action now perpetuated as a ritual - and just because the action survives in the ritual it still confirms some right in social relations. It may be either the advent of the founder of a royal family, bringing all the instruments of civilisation, or the tale of the wonders worked by the earliest ancestor of a ritual authority, or the story of the first man who practiced a certain kind of magic. There are also the myths of the origins, which tell us how the world knew death and work, and how earth and sky were separated to punish those who had disobeyed God. These myths aim at answering universal questions.
However, Hebraic-Christian culture is more acquainted with eschatological myths, based on a linear concept of time and projected towards the future, e.g. apocalyptical millenarianism and social change.
In 1962 the Situationist Raoul Vaneigem wrote:
'Born of men's will to stand the uncontrollable forces of nature, the myth is a policy of public safety that has outlived its own function and established itself despotically, reducing life to the mere dimension of survival, negating it as a process and a totality'.
It is not comfortable to live together with the myth, yet it is inevitable, as it was inevitable that, in the fire and bloodsheds of riots and class war, humans placed their trust in this crystallisation of their collective imaginary, believing that their actions would be canalised in a linear and predictable becoming.
Yet the trouble is not the "falsehood" of myths, but the fact that they outlived all historical forms of the needs and desires they canalised and re-shaped. Once ritualised and systematised, the imaginary becomes the mirror image of the powers that be. The myths of social change turn into founding myths of the false community built and represented by the power: "Progress" established so-called "Humanity", the protagonist of "History" etc. Abstract subjectivities to be Capitalised. The founding myth of the USA, i.e. the myth of the "Wild Frontier", apparently derived from apocalyptic millenarianism, caused the extermination of the natives and became the ideological glue of xxth century imperialism. On the other hand, the myth of the "Proletariat" was rotten too: instead of fighting for the self-suppression of proletarians as a class, the communist movement had mystical wanks over any sign of "proletarianship", such asthe "hardened hands" of the workers, or their "morality", mixing Christian rubbish and an absurd confidence in bourgeois human sciences - in fact, proletarians were defined according to sociology and identified with labour workers themselves at best, or with the "poor" of the Scriptures at worst, or even with both figures, while Marx had written: "Either the proletariat is revolutionary, or it is nothing". The direct consequences were Zdanov's Socialist Realism, puritanism, sexual repression against bourgeois "decadence" and all that shite.
However, human social relations would be impossible if we tried to get rid of symbols and fantasies in name of an abstract rationality, and our collective imagination will create ever more mythologies. The "Destruction of myths" makes no sense, we must concentrate our efforts in another direction: let the imaginary move, prevent it from crystallising, try to understand when and how myths are to be deconstructed, dismembered or forgotten before the plurality of images is reduced to one and absolute. We must surf the nets, plunder the collective imagination, get ourselves teletransported on wild planets: Picard and Daton on Eladril.
'The myth will not fail to re-emerge, indeed, it is coming already. In reality it's always been here, and will come to surface as a treasure at the opportune moment. It will come, however, as a heterogeneous principle, when its very process will reach the highest level [...] We never go back to the myth, we always find it again whenever the foundations of time are shaken by the threat of an extreme danger.' (Ernst Juenger, Der Waldgang).
That German reactionary writer wrote this piece in 1951, yet he perfectly described our present-day situation. However, Juenger's point of view proves useful only if we lay stress on that 'as a heterogeneous principle' which disbands and breaks the piece. Otherwise we'd have to follow the long-lived whore-monger until we touch ground and read: 'Peoples never give up their hope for another Theodoric or another Augustus, a prince whose mandate is announced in the constellations. They perceive that the golden vein of myth is hardly underneath the surface of history, just beneath the land lotted by the surveyors of time'.
On the contrary, the myth that I want to make emerge as a heterogenous, nay, as a chaotic and ever-changing principle, is that of the Tamarian network of events. Harmony, frankness and concord are even less interesting that linearity, and Luther Blissett is not a bard who'll sing the deeds of a new revolutionary Theodoric, but an avant-bard who sings the Gemeinwesen. The open community which the network brings about is not a liberated post-revolutionary society, let alone a revolutionary class: it is nothing less thanthe actual revolution, if we regard revolution as an unpredictable evolution on the razor's edge of a catastrophe, a game of endless becoming. There's no 'before' and 'after' the revolution, everything's happening during the revolution. In plain words, the Tamarian myth is not only a stratagem to push the masses towards the revolution (unlike George Sorel's myth of the general strike), it can't be just a strategy for the pars destruens [the destructive side]. No, the allegories I use in this book are foundations of a new building, they have an important pars construens [the constructive side].
If someone told me that the refusal of work is just a tactical weapon and that, come the revolution, people will have to work again because leisure is decadent and typical of the depraved middle-class, I'd wonder where is the native Stalinist hovel of such a survivor of the XXth century. Likewise, if someday we'll manage to dethrone the capitalist elite, the day after we'll begin to expand the Tamarian use of myths, secrets, simulation and falsehood in order to create situations, for that stuff is not property of this bourgeois society - we are not interested in leaving all hoaxes behind in the name of Truth and more "natural" relations. Let the pseudo-anarcho-Xtians deal with that high-sounding crap - we don't give a shit. As Georg Simmel put it:
'Concord, harmony and co-operation, i.e. the quintessential forces of socialisation, are to be broken by distance, competition and repulsion in order to create the real configuration of a society: fixed forms of organisation, which appear to shape the society or create a new one, are to be continually disturbed, put out of balance, corroded by irregular individualistic forces [...] Mutual knowledge is not the only thing which positively affects relations: the actual state of things implies some ignorance, as well as an incommensurable amount of mutual secrecy [...] Secrecy, i.e. the concealment of bits of reality by positive or negative means, is one the greatest achievements of mankind. During childood any intention is immediately expressed, any action is accessible to everyone, while by secrecy we achieve an infinite amplification of life, because many of its contents cannot emerge even if everything is made public' (G. Simmel, Das Geheimnis un die geheime Gesellschaft, 1908).
It goes without saying that we would have written dividualistic instead of "individualistic" and becoming instead of "state of things".
Anyway, Simmel's description does not suit only the bourgeois society. Rather, it's fit for any past, present-day and future human association, either society (Gesellschaft) or community (Gemeinschaft). Since no revolution is so radical that the people involved are thrown beyond any previous alienation and mankind enters the realm of Sacred History, it is likely that humans shall face new problems and misunderstandings after the collapse of the elite. Thus secrecy and pranks will still be preciously useful. The myth will not fail to re-emerge then. The future may belong to the Tamarian network of events. The community that's coming is a community of risks, collisions and conflicts - if possible, there's going to be even more conflict than now, but it won't be marketing competition nor civil war, but a synthesis of conflict and co-operation, a never ending construction of situations with no losers, for victory will be the very involvement in the game, as well as the stipulation of new temporary alliances and the creation of rules which include their outflanking and transgression. A big "Picard and Daton on Eladril", something you would have never associated to the supercession of capitalism.
1. RAY JOHNSON: A ZAPATISTA IN GREENWICH
There's a best-selling book written in Italian by "Luther Blissett" which put into circulation a metropolitan legend on Ray Johnson and his involvement in the "Luther Blissett" international multiple name project. The name of the book is Mind Invaders. How To Fuck [With] The Media, it was published in November 1995 and sold out before the end of December. Its publisher, Rome-based Castelvecchi Edizioni, immediately reprinted it. It appears that M.I. was projected to comply with a Vittore Baroni's directive (on Arte Postale! # 69, Springtime 1995) which more or less sounded like "Create your works of Ray Johnson... Keep alive and visible the legends of the virtual Rays... scare the shit out of the exploiters of posthumous glory" . It seems that those who were using and sharing the name "Luther Blissett" since the beginning of 1994 (nobody knows who launched this project, there's a lot of myths flying around it) decided then to insert Ray Johnson in the pantheon of the "imaginary founders". Before and after the publication of M.I., they spread contradictory rumours which were amplificated and hyped by newspapers and magazines; the name of Ray began to appear in the articles which described the pranks, sabotages, psychogeographical explorations, performances, exhibitions, videos and radio shows set up in Italy by people adopting the name. M.I. carried the whole thing farther by ascribing to Johnson some of the key Blissett's texts available on alternative Italian BBSs (actually written both by British and Italian psychogeographers) and heavily whinging on some sort of CIA-masonic conspiracy aimed at killing him (a chapter even reports a rumour that he was a Fifth Column of the EZLN in the US!). Of course the gulls - as well as the disguised LBs - in the Italian press started echoing this legend, although the prologue and many paragraphs outspokenly warned the readers that they were expected in turn to re-manipulate the "networking myth" in order to create a sensational buzz which would help to make the most of the "invisibility" and "effectiveness" of the "actual" LBs. Belief is the enemy!
However, something was true (...maybe), as revealed by a more prosaic account of the contraybution: I was told that a few years ago Johnson received from an Italian corrayspondent (most probably Ruggero Maggi) a press cutting which mentioned him. On the reverse there was a piece on the national soccer's league (actually we call it "football"..."Soccer" is the American word) containing the sentence: "Even Luther Blissett would have score such a goal!". A brief explanation is required: Luther Blissett was a British soccer player who retired in the late Eighties. He used to play in the Watford Football Club, whose owner and president was... Elton John. In 1983 the Milan Football Club signed on him, thus he moved to Italy. Unfortunately he never got used to the Italian league, one year later the club sent him back to the UK. He's remembered as a proverbial washout.
In a very short letter to Vittore Baroni (or maybe to the aforementioned Maggi), Johson dropped the line: "By the way, who is Luther Blissett?". The receiver (whoever he was) suddenly remembered the calamitous footballer, and started laughing. In a letter he diverted the question to Stewart Home of the Neoist Alliance. On February 15th 1994, after having answered that the reputation of Blissett was more good in England than in Italy (in the 1982-83 championship he scored 27 goals!), Stewart Home joined his fellows of the London Psychogeographical Association for a planned psychogeographical "drift" in Greenwich. There the party found... Blissett Street. In the following days the LPA discovered that it was named after Rev. George Blissett, a Victorian do-gooder. "Luther Blissett" went to London as a funny story and came back to Italy as an infectious multiple name.
To sum up, Ray Johnson was such a contagious artist that even his "by-the-ways" and incidental remarks were viable for the culture jamming guerrilla! At the best he's been a half-conscious originator of the project! At the worst, he never got to know what monster he had given birth to.
After M.I., the legends moved to other countries via [E-]mail, ended up on some 'zines (e.g. P.O. BOX, recently issued in Barcelona, Spain) and bifurcated again. The recent increase in the use and circulation of the LB's name in America (see the "Luther Blissett Display" at the S. Diego *SOCIOMETRY FAIR '96*, puzzling graffiti appeared in Baltimore, unexpected "virtual" performances in Albany, strange messages received by the Salt Lake Masonic Lodge, as well as many mail art projects and exhibitions) will probably sprayd other local varayants of the story, strayking with subversive delight the geograyphical heart of Ray's life and gloray. I think I'll give up these fuckin' puns, they're boraying me!
Isn't this one of the best tributes to an artist who skillfully mastered the codes of networking culture, of pop mythologies and even of coincidence of names?