1997. Anonymous Family Reunion

In 1975 I conceived of the idea of a collective identity name. I didn't participate in such a project, however, until a small group of friends starting using the name "David A. Bannister" in 1978. Then, in late 1980, I learned about the "Open Pop Star" Monty Cantsin. After Monty came Karen Eliot & after Karen came Luther Blissett. Luther Blissett was probably the 1st name I used for an email identity back in the day when I used library computers to check my email because I didn't have a computer that could interface with the internet at home.

It was in 1996 that I realized that "Anonymous" was a collective identity name that could be thought of as having a much longer history than any of the other such names that I used. I liked thinking of all the Anonymi as a 'family' - united by their common non-name.

With this thought in mind I thought it would be funny to propose an "Anonymous Family Reunion" & to see what would happen. Think of it as a Mad Scientist Experiment. As my friend Anonymous pointed out, this would be an aporia ("an irresolvable internal contradiction or logical disjunction in a text, argument, or theory") because 1. in order to have a "re-union" there would've had to've been a "union" to begin with - in other words the attendees would be re-uniting - which they couldn't do if they were anonymous to each other to begin with, 2. if they were to meet they'd no longer be anonymous any more & would, therefore, not be part of the Anonymous 'family'.

SO, in 1996 I started anonymously sending out the following post-cards to people on my voluminous 'Mail Art' list & putting them on bulletin boards & the like. Eventually, a friend posted the info on some sort of anonymous internet bulletin board or some such.

Since I had just moved to the address used earlier that year & since I was out-of-touch with almost everyone the address would've gone largely unrecognized. My phone was probably in the name of "Karen Eliot" if it wasn't in the name of "Monty Cantsin". To make it even less immediately associated with me I used prefabricated rubber stamps of a type that I would've never used in my mailings otherwise because of their generic imagistic qualities.

When I started spreading the post-cards around I thought people would think about it for a minute & find it funny. Instead, I got very few responses at all & many of these were paranoid. After I'd gotten some positive replies I picked a location that seemed central to all possible participants & started planning the 'reunion' further. In 1997, I got internet access at home & got an email address under the name of "anon" (I wanted "anonymous" but it was already taken). That enabled me to do more internet outreach too.

What it eventually turned into more than anything else was a field trip to a barn in Eastern Pennsylvania full of sound sculptures & the attendees mainly went interested in that rather than because they were actually interested in the core concept. This was a disappointment to me but given that it was an experiment I figured that any results were 'valid'.

To document the year's worth of outreach & the final results, I compiled a book that included things ephemeral to the reunion but relevant to the idea of anonymity - including a NY Times Op Ed piece about "When terrorism dare not speak its name." This July 28, 1996, piece begins its 2nd paragraph with:

"And what is doubly frightening is the thought of Anonymous operating in the information age."

As it's turned out, that hasn't always been so "frightening" after all - not, at least, when "Anonymous operating in the information age" exposes police racism in Ferguson, Missouri or does other things that brings to the public eye covert operations & misinformation of the powers-that-be.

The "Anonymous Family Reuion" book came with an attached VHS tape that showed what the actual activities were at Ringing Rocks State Park & at the sound sculpture barn. That can be witnessed on YouTube here:


The book itself is far more informative of the overall process than the movie is so I highly recommend reading it. Alas, I only know of 2 or 3 people who actually HAVE read it! Only 100 were made & the pages of the book were all hand-cut with shaped scissors. The overall process of making each one took 2 hours. I probably have close to half of them left 19 years later. They can be gotten from me but, really, no-one seems interested. Odd. I think this was historic.

- April 2, 2016 notes from Anonymous







idioideo at verizon dot net


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