23 Nov 1999

A chat after an interview given by Luther Blissett to the Australian Radio ABC

From: Glenn 23/11/99 10:27:23
Subject: re: Luther Blissett

The Blisset project seems to attack a lot of the fundamental assumptions that we make about copyright and individual identity. It also attacks a lot of the traditional assumptions of art about 'individual ownership and identity". How do you think the traidtional 'arts' are engaging with those sorts of questions?

From: jason di rosso (panellist) 23/11/99 10:39:06
Subject: re: Luther Blissett

I can only answer your question in terms of someone who has observed the Luthers from a distance and not as a spokesperson for the Luther Blissett Project of course. A lot of what gets written about the movement seems to be quite patronising... I don't think the traditional art industry think much about the idea of keeping thoughts and concepts free...my interpretation is that the Luther Blissetts view the trad. art world as being totally dependant financially on mecchanisms like copyright and concepts like the uniqueness of the artist etc...

From: Greg 23/11/99 10:49:46
Subject: re: Luther Blissett

I didn't hear the segment - i just got an email about this, so maybe this has already been addressed on the program. But where does the name "Luther Blissett" comes from? Why was that name chosen?

What is the origin of "Luther Blisset"

From: Bernice 23/11/99 11:10:27
Subject: re: Luther Blissett

Dear Jason,
Thank you for your item about the Italian Blissett. Brilliiant!!

The whole copyright thingo is mean-spirited way in which 'boomers' hold on to their crumbling empire of intellectual edifices. It's a racket heavily protected by a privileged few who invoke sententious arguments of morality.

It doesn't work anymore. ideas need to be free to wander, meet new ideas, make friends, enemies, and produce new ways of seeing, hearing, interpreting.

Let's hear it for Blissett!!!

From: jason di rosso (panellist) 23/11/99 11:15:22
Subject: re: Luther Blissett

Luther Blissett was an Afro-Carribean footballer who played in England and Italy in the early eighties. I believe the choice of name was just random, absurdist if you like. Check out the site at syntac.net/lutherblissett...it's done by some Italians but it's got a lot of English content...

From: marcus westbuy (panellist) 23/11/99 11:19:36
Subject: re: Luther Blissett

Jason, where does your interest in Mr Blissett etc. come from? Have you done stories on similar projects before?

Oh, and has anyone asked the footballer what he thinks about them stealing his name? Maybe he should have trademarked it (as many sports stars are doing) :-

From: jason di rosso (panellist) 23/11/99 11:31:02
Subject: re: Luther Blissett

I lived in Italy in 1995 and some of the friends I happened to make during that time were Luthers. Though I must point out the Luther Blissett Project has no nationality, I am broadly interested in political and cultural dissent in Italy in particular. Unfortunately I have not done any other stories in this area so far. That part of the world has a lot of very interesting ideas, for the most part drowned out by the huge advertising machine that promotes Italy's official cultural icons in fashion, tourism and art history

From: jason di rosso (panellist) 23/11/99 11:37:43
Subject: re: Luther Blissett

As for the footballer's opinion regarding the use of his name...er, yes I seem to recall an open letter to the football club he is currently involved with (as part of the managerial team I think) which sort of addresses the issue. The Times wrote an article on it actually, and it was in reference to this that a letter was sent sort of explaining the whole thing and apologising for any offence that may have been caused. I think the letter can be found at the syntac.net/lutherblissett site.

From: Generic 23/11/99 10:34:25
Subject: Copyright

Copyright is a huge cultural and political issue that a lot of the media and the art world aren't really engaging with. It underpins so much of the structure of both media and the arts but it is increasingly being challenged by people who see it as the same system that underlies the extension of intellectual property to trademarking words and phrases, and the system that leads to a 'human genome project' where people are effectively copyrighting the code that is at the heart of life itself.

The problem is that most artists and arts bodies in Australia refuse to ask any questions beyond tinkering at the edges of the current copyright regeime. I think the Luther Blissett project is a leap in the right direction.

From: suzie 23/11/99 10:40:27
Subject: re: Copyright

the arts community are effectively apologists for - if not boosters of, the commercial notion of intellectual property as extended to cultural property. Culture isn't MADE by individuals, it is a community endeavour made by many people.

The whole notion of the "professional artist" makes the artist nothing more than a commerical commodity who creates, buys and sells, intellectual property. I much prefer the artist as provocateur idea as explored by the likes of the Blissetts. Perhaps Arts Today should make an editorial policy of calling all their guests "Luther Blissett" - particularly the high profile ones.

From: adam ford 23/11/99 11:02:34
Subject: re: Copyright

Suzie -

are you against the idea of an artist making money from their work? I have a particular spin on this idea - I prefer NOT to make a career out of my art (writing) because I don't wish to put my art under any sort of "survival" pressure, but I respect and understand the decision of other artists who want to do that.

It seems to me that copyright is one of the tools that can allow an artist to make that choice.

adam ford

From: Suzie 23/11/99 11:10:15
Subject: re: Copyright

I am not AGAINST artists making money from their work.

But copyright is a system with tragic consequences - it is being extended into every aspect of life and property and it is a really problematic system. THe politics of copyright is a system that artists should be challenging NOT boosting, that's all...

At the very least, there should be some sort of space within the arts to debate those issues rather than the relentless boosting of it in the name of protecting "artists rights"

From: Bernadette 23/11/99 10:46:52
Subject: Theft and vandalism

Some of the actions that Mr Blissett was speaking about were clearly on the wrong side of legality: stealing statues etc. As i understand it, Luther Blissett is 'many people' and i don't understand. When you said in the program that "Luther Blissett" said X does that mean that is an 'official' position or could that have been anyone?

Is there such a thing as an official 'Luther Blissett?'

From: jason di rosso (panellist) 23/11/99 10:59:12
Subject: re: Theft and vandalism

I don't think it's my place to comment about the illegality issue, however the question about the "official" Luther Blissett is a good one. The guy I spoke to is someone who I know has been actively using the name for the last few years. He is not an official Luther, but he did co-write the novel "Q" and has been following events in Italy enough to be able to relay them to a wider audience. This does not mean he is in contact with or even knows the other Blissetts talked about in the interview. For more info about some Italian Luthers, an interesting site is at syntac.net/lutherblissett

From: adam ford 23/11/99 11:06:28
Subject: re: Theft and vandalism

There's an australian Luther Blisset, who produces a zine that's been called at various times: STEAL THIS ZINE, MAYBE SHE'S BORN WITH IT, NERVOUS DANDRUFF and BLOWN COLON. He's kind of an erotic linguistic terrorist.

From: Svengali 23/11/99 11:50:18
Subject: Italian Media

Jason, to ask an embarassingly broad question, you were talking about living in Italy for a while and i am interested in how the media climate there effects the politcal culture. I understand that Italy has a very concentrated TV environment (with Ex PM Silvio Berlesconi ) owning most if not all of the commercial networks. But i also understand that there is a really anarchic radio culture in Italy. Can you put the Luther Blissett thing into a braoder cultural/political media context and maybe talk a bit more about the things you observed in Italy.

From: jason di rosso (panellist) 23/11/99 12:11:16
Subject: re: Italian Media

What I witnessed in Italy in 95 and on subsequent visits was a thriving, extremely militant and class conscious underground. By underground I mean small independant publishers, community radios, and a network of self administered squats across italy open to the public for everything from raves to emergency housing for migrants to theatre performances. Yes, the media ownership in Italy appears very dire, but I know too little about it to speak. On the other hand I saw a very healthy and active "counter culture" as well. Luther Blissett (in Italy) i think is part of this...the Blissetts certainly echo some sentiments that can be found across the spectrum of the Italian underground.

From: McKenzie Wark (panellist) 23/11/99 14:59:17
Subject: re: Copyright

I like the idea of calling everyone who appears on the ABC Luther Blissett! Maybe there should be a Blissett day, where everything is by Luther.

Copyright is very weak protection. With writing, it really only protects very specific structures of words. Nothing stops another writer borrowing a story or some other element and messing with it. What's a lot more complicated is the protection of recorded media such as film, which is a cumbersome system. The idea of copyright has always been about striking a balance between protecting the rights of the creator with the rights of other people to use the work to create something new, and the rights of the public to have access to works that might be of benefit.


From: McKenzie Wark (panellist) 23/11/99 14:53:12
Subject: re: Luther Blissett

There's some ambiguities in the Blissett project -- is it OK to use someone's name against their will, for example? Blissett wasn't too happy about it. How would you feel if someone started using your name for things you might have nothing to do with.

The other problem is that if there is no protection at all for the artist, then how can anyone make a living? It's not just companies that own copyrights. I kinda like the Luther Blissett cd project, where artists contribute music and the cd goes out under the name of Luther Blissett. It poses all these nice ambiguities about authorship. But is compete disregard of all copyright really a good policy? In the end, it benefits the owners of the means of distribution. If content were free. they'd still be charging for access to it, but the content creators wouldn't see a cent.