From "The Wire", September 2000


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


By 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, "quartet of activists" still insisted that each was called Luther Blissett. A multiply identity of mysterious origins that first surfaced in Italy in the mid-90s, Luther Blissett has maintained 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 epistemological cloning operation had taken place. Luther Blissett coul 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 it is a way to 'pratically examine, and break down, Western philosophic notions of identity, individuality, value and truth' ".


Stewart Home, who has 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 open 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?" "A guy using the name Luther Blissett was transferred from [soccer teams] Watford to AC Milan in 1982", a recent Web posting from Luther Blissett comments. "He stayed for just one season. He was one of the first black players to play in Serie A, preceding Ruud Gullit by about four years. AC Milan's present Godfather is Silvio Berlusconi, probably the most powerful main in Italy. Berlusconi owns four TV channels and will probably soon become big boss of all Italy. Rupert Murdog [sic] will also be crowned King of Europe...": Now back at Watford in a coaching role, Luther Blissett would appear to know the score. "This strange group has decided to use my name for their collective identity", the footballer told BBC Online. "They keep doing all sorts of things, and I keep getting the credit or the blame for it":


As Home points out, the people responsible for putting Luther Blissett into circulation were smart enough to pick up on a name that already had some common currency. The political economy of the sign demands that identity define itself in terms of fame. Individual presence is replicated to the point where it becomes meaningless. Just ask Chris Evans and Ginger Spice. With information as the new capital, fame becomes a meaningless commerce: son many pairs of Gap Khakis, sold by such dead faces as Steve McQueen, Miles Davis, Jack Kerouac and now an anonymous troupe of young dancers, all of whom probably want to live forever. Celebrity is the creation myth in reverse, invoking issues of privacy and copyright control. Who finally owns the creature? Embarking upon what was supposed to be his last ever tour in 1972, David Bowie announced that he was killing off his alter ego Ziggy Stardust for good. The final concert at the Hammersmith Odeon was rumoured to have taken place amid scenes of orgiastic rioting organised by some of Ziggy's more radical fans. The fact that such outbreaks were never reported in the media at the time gives them a resonant secret life that might otherwise have been denied them. The word "fame" is derived from the Latin term for "roumor". The hidden face constantly relocates itself. Members of The Residents have famously reduced their individual appearance to a single eyeball, and garish rock corpses Kiss founded a demonic military/industrial complex by dissimulating thair features. "We wanted to look live we crawled from under a rock somewhere in hell", guitarist Gene Simmons explained. He later went on to appear in the low budget cyber-conspiracy flick Runaway, playing Charles Luther, inventor of an advanced species of predatory killer robot. In Megazone 23, Noburo Ishiguro's 1985 animated adaptation of the Robert Heinlein novel Universe, a Tokio teenage biker stumbles upon a massive government conspiracy, discovering in the process that nothing in his world ia as it seems. The massively popular "idoru" or idol singer and television host Eve Tokimatsuri, for example, is in reality a seventh-level computer protection system with no independent existence outside her mainframe. "Help me!" she cries, as the military slowly dismantles her. "I'm about to be terminated!".
Only 12 years on from Megazone 23, William Gibson blended fictional rock identities with a virtual Japanese idol singer in his novel Idoru. "The real idorus, as the Japanese have known them for a while",Gibson explained in a Web salon posting, "are little assembly-line singers who are just turned out like 20 a month...everybody knows that when you hear the record it's probably not the girl actually singing. So somebody took that one step further and brought out an idoru who didn't exist at all - there simply wasn't any girl there. They had the record and they had the pictures of her, and she became really popular. Possibly because kids knew she didn't exist...She went on to become a cult item, to the point that she was publishing books of her poetry and having gallery shows of her watercolours". Sometimes the mask can slip, and no one blinks. Twisted 1960s recording icon Napoleon XIV was in reality LA pop genius Kim Fowley, while polished new waver Klark Kent turned out to have close connections with the CIA.


Luther Blisset as Pop Star is an overloaded cultural tautology: a virtual social reality capable of emphasissing itself out of existence, just as hit after hit on the same Website can finally make it crash into bitterness, obscurity and indifference. When the Pompidou Center first opened its electronic doors back in the early 1980s, Guy Hocquenheim suggested that consumers of modern culture should pack the place out, over-using it to the point where the Richard Rogers exoskeleton would finally buckle under the strain. Nearly 20 years on, pedestrians walk in fear of its falling bolts and fixtures: the whole area is shabby and worn. The art refinery becomes fully exposed. The price of fame is getting hassled for space change, while someone else tries to sell you dodgy Dalì prints from a sidewalk display. Luther Blissett 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, explicitly named philosopher and novelist 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 becomes a seance, invoking faces and voices that are simultaneously familiar yet removed. "As we lived in a world were the official version is invariably bullshit, and the media is part of the plot to maintain the status quo", comment 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 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 ingredient."


The cops and SISDE, the italian civil intelligence, were also interested. In the summer of 1995, a Radio Blissett late-night broadcast on Radio Città 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 Città Futura refused, threatening to make 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 "Psychick ATAC", The Open Pop Star's opening track. Right on cue, the cop fires into the air; a bitmapped audio detonation set against a mid-80s industrial mix of Richard Wagner's "Ride Of The Valkyries" and Tibetan monks chanting. All events are reconstructions. Details 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 CD; The Association of Autonomous Astronauts contemplating the implications of zero-gravity genitalia on "A Insurreicao Erotica", Merzbow's "Floating Eloy" 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 ramblings 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 accompanyng note (from Luther Blissett), "and it's gonna tahe decades before he's acknowledged as well-deserving performer...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 emotional identity, the stomach. The four individuals responsible for putting out the novel Q have now revealed their real identities, Various theories still surround Eco's involvement in the whole affair, however. "Some say he is Luther Blissett and supporting Left Wing Government", runs a communication from Wot4 Records, "Some say he is weaving a trail of misinformation to cover the tracks of Masonic organisation like the P2, which he is reputed to be a part of the 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"

Luther Blissett - The Open Pop Star is out now on Wot4. More info from