2015. Improper Names - Collective Pseudonyms from the Luddites to Anonymous

review of

Marco Deseriis's Improper Names - Collective Pseudonyms from the Luddites to Anonymous

by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 2-12, 2016

"Imp-Roper": "Embrace your Inner Impropriety":


truncated review:




THIS IS A MUST READ. Not a mussed read. It's very neat & tidy - wch doesn't mean that it oversimplifies. It's thorough, meticulous, well-researched, well-argued. This bk is about a subject near & dear to me, something that I've been deeply involved w/, I definitely read it w/ a higher degree of critical-mindedness than most people wd.. &, in the end, I'm impressed!

After the title page & before the table of contents there are 2 quotes. The 1st of these is this:

"To give a name is always, like any birth (certificate), to sublimate a singularity and to inform against it, to hand it over to the police. All the police force in the world can be routed by a surname, but even before they know it, a secret computer, at the moment of baptism, will have kept them up to date. -JACQUES DERRIDA" - p vii

Derrida was a French philosopher born in Algeria, in Northern Africa. I have a vague memory from more than 40 yrs ago of reading that some Africans ("Africans" being probably an excessively sweeping generalization) have the names that people know them by & secret names that shd be known only to them in order to avoid having malicious magic applied against them. Consider the following:

"9. Secret names.-A second inevitable consequence of a similar intrinsic power of the name is the development of the idea of withdrawing the name from the eventually dangerous use that might be made of it, by keeping secret the real names of persons."


"This explains the custom of having for the individual an ordinary name, for daily use, and a real name, which he alone knows (or which even has sometimes been given to him at birth by his parents unknown to him). Sometimes this name is given during the first years of life; sometimes it is revealed secretly to the individual, on a fixed occasion, by his parents, the fetish-man, or the priest, or by a priestly college (e.g., on the occasion of entrance upon the duties of diviner, sorcerer, priest, chief, king, etc.). The most frequent case is that of the secret name whispered by the mother in her child's ear on the day of his birth". [..] "He who possesses this secret name will never reveal it to anybody, and in all circumstances his ordinary name will be used".

- Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics: Mundas-Phyrgians - edited by James Hastings, John Alexander Selbie, Louis Herbert Gray - p 133

To 'Westerners' (another sweeping generalization) this may seem to be a superstition but I tend to relate the idea to Derrida's police state warning above: the more easily a person is identifiable, the more easily they are controlled.

[Coincidentally, while I'm writing this review I'm reading Esther Friesner's fantasy novel Majyk by Accident in wch this is written: "["]'Tis said that he who standeth in possession of a Welfie's true name may call himself the creature's master."" (p 106)]

The introduction, "GENEALOGY AND THEORY OF THE IMPROPER NAME", starts off w/ a wonderful story:

"In May-June 1995, a local community radio station in Rome aired a curious live broadcast experiment. Every Saturday night for five consecutive weeks, all participants in the program vowed to go by the same name and be the same person. By introducing themselves as Luther Blissett, anchors, correspondents and listeners embraced the confusion that ensured: "Hold on, we have a Luther calling in from the Colosseum. Hi Luther, how am I doing tonight?" asked the anchorwoman. "Pretty good, and myself?" replied a male listener. "Not bad, not bad," replied the anchor. "Listen, a group of Luthers are converging on the Colosseum right now to organize a three-sided football match. Do you wanna help them out?"" - p 1

That single paragraph is rich w/ sympathetic vibes for me. I'm reminded of Radio Alice wch, according to Collective A / Traverso's "Radio Alice-Free Radio" article in semiotext(e) intervention series 1 - ITALY: AUTONOMIA - POST-POLITICAL POLITICS (1980):

"When the accusation of obscenity was flung at us, we were a little disconcerted. We had thought about many possible accusations: pirate station, underminers, communists, subversives, but we did not anticipate this one. But that's natural and proper. Language, when it is freed from the sublimations which reduce it to the code and makes desire and the body speak, is obscene (literally: obscene)." - p 130

"Another direct phone call:

""We are workers on strike, we want you to play some music and we want to talk to you about the 35 hour week, it's time they talked about that in contracts."" - p 132

As I recall, Radio Alice wd keep in touch w/ demonstrations by having people call in to report on police movements wch Radio Alice wd then announce over the air. The idea being to help protesters avoid arrests. This was the battle in the larger colosseum. This was before cell-phones, this was proto-Twitter. W/ this in mind, it's odd that Deseriis wd credit Blissett as follows for doing something similar 2 decades later w/o mentioning Radio Alice as a precursor:

"Luther Blissett updated this occultist version of the dérive" [as manifested by the London Psychogeographical Association] "by adding a new layer: the real-time sharing of information among psychogeographers through the combined use of broadcast radio and the telephone system. Instead of mapping the psychological effects of the spatial organization of the city, the psychogeographers of Radio Blissett explored the temporary social relations that could be activated by remapping the urban layout with the radio and the telephone in that nonplace of the present we call "real-time communication."" - p 139

As for the collective acting-out of the group identity?:

Listen to track 08. "Monty Cantsin Psychoanalytic Encounter Group w/ Charles Boyd (MD)" (1985) in the "Neoism: Smile: The Eggs in the Gauntlet-Ulteriorism..........." digitized tape on the Internet Archive: https://archive.org/details/NeoismSmileEggs .

There are many ways of fucking w/ language to produce vitally liberated offspring. At the Public Works festival in Toronto in early October of 1981 four people from BalTimOre, Ricki Kilreagan, Sin-Dee Heidel, Eugenie Vincent, & myself (tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE), introduced ourselves w/ different names everytime anyone asked what our names were. The Great Confusion! This was Neoism. Or was it?

In Berlin, on Friday, July 25th, 1997, Florian Cramer, Berit Schuck, etta cetera, & myself (Party Teen on Couch #2), conducted a language experiment in wch we each spoke in English using words to mean what they aren't usually meant to mean & w/o explaining our personal systems for doing so. (See the "Language Experiment" entry here: http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/MereOutline1997.html ) The result? I felt like I was on the verge of levitating. This was Neoism. Or was it?

"Radio 2003:

"In San Francisco to present 2 screenings, one of these was to have a performance of my "Guitarist Anonymous Withdrawal Aids" as part of it. It'd been arranged for me to promote that show on an arts program on KALX. Instead of doing a straight-forward promotion, which didn't interest me, I asked the 2 hosts to play along with my pretending to run a Guitarists Anonymous Therapy Session (or some such). During this, the idea was, I would continually refer to them not by their actual names & I'd act like I was humoring them if they referred to my upcoming screening. To make matters more confusing, I was in a separate studio from where they were - so we couldn't see each other. As I recall, this is only a brief excerpt from the actual event - probably chosen because it had the least distortion. The result was probably one of the most bizarre event promotions the station had ever experienced - although I thought it was appropriately in the spirit of the performance to take place.

"- December 5, 2012E.V. notes from tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE" - https://archive.org/details/Radio2003

This was the Great Confusion on the radio. But it wasn't Neoism.

As for "three-sided football"? The Neoist Facebook Group was recently informed (February 20, 2016) by Tae Ateh that there was to be the "First Quantum Flux Footballum Equinox Fest (FQFFEF) - London, in March" ( http://divus.cc/london/en/content-page/?id=103 ). 3-sided football has evolved.

All that in response to one paragraph. This bk means alot to me.

"Luther Blissett was a "multiple-use name." That is, anyone could become Luther Blissett simply by adopting the name. Launched in Bologna in 1994, the open reputation quickly spread to other Italian cities, and thanks to the internet, it did not take long to go international. By the late 1990s, the multiple-use name had been borrowed by hundreds of individuals around the world to author media pranks, sell apocryphal manuscripts to publishers, fabricate artists and artworks, denounce media witch hunts, author best-selling novels, and conduct psychogeographic experiments, or simply as an Internet handle. Even though the wild circulation of the pseudonym made it difficult to define its exact role and function, in the intention of its creators, Blissett was meant to be a folk hero of the information age that could narrate a vast community of cultural producers into existence. In particular, the founders of the Luther Blissett Project saw the condividual as a modern Robin Hood who could seize the symbolic and material wealth accumulated by the culture industries and redistribute it to its increasingly underpaid and precarious producers." - p 2

"To further explore the ambivalent nature of this obfuscation, I shall briefly unearth the etymological meaning of the term condividual. A derivative of the Italian condivisione (sharing as "dividing together"), the condividual does not necessarily presuppose a community but only a concatenation of parts." - p 4

When I 1st heard of Luther Blissett in 1994, no doubt from my correspondent Florian Cramer, I had already participated in the collective identities of David A. Bannister, Monty Cantsin, & Karen Eliot. As such, I rc'vd word of yet-another such name w/ some trepidation b/c it seemed to me that there cd be 'too many' collective pseudonyms & that they cd proliferate so much that they'd become individualized names instead of, to use the term that Deseriis uses, condividualized. The 'problem', as I perceived it, is similar to what Umberto Eco addressed re Volapük in his bk The Search for the Perfect Language:

"Volapük was perhaps the first auxiliary language to become a matter of international concern. It was invented in 1879 by Johann Martin Schleyer, a German Catholic priest who envisioned it as an instrument to foster unity and brotherhood among peoples. As soon as it was made public, the language spread, expanding throughout south Germany and France, where it was promoted by Auguste Kerckhoffs. From here it extended rapidly throughout the whole world. By 1889 there were 283 Volapükist clubs, in Europe, America and Australia, which organized courses, gave diplomas and published journals. Such was the momentum that Schleyer soon began to lose control over his own project, so that, ironically, at the very moment in which he was being celebrated as the father of Volapük, he saw his language subjected to 'heretical' modifications which further simplified, restructured and rearranged it. Such seems to be the fate of artificial languages: the 'word' remains pure only if it does not spread; if it spreads, it becomes the property of the community of its proselytes, and (since the best is the enemy of the good) the result is 'Babelization'. So it happened to Volapük: after a few short years of mushroom growth, the movement collapsed, continuing in an almost underground existence. From its seeds, however, a plethora of new projects were born, like the Idiom Neutral, the Langu Universelle of Menet (1886), De Max's Bopal (1887), the Spelin of Bauer (1886), Fieweger's Dil (1887), Dormoy's Balta (1893), and the Valtparl of von Arnim (1896)." - pp 319-320, The Search for the Perfect Language (Ricerca della lingua perfetta nella cultura europea translated from Italian to English by James Fentress)

In other words, wd "Babelization" result from the addition of yet-another-collective-identity-name?! If so, & if that's the 'natural' product of such lingual ambitions, why not embrace yr inner Babelization rather than reject it?! Such was my proposal of "Daffy Diplomacy" to the "A Neoist Research Project: experiments & outcomes" at WORM, Rotterdam, Netherlands on December 3, 2010. There're 2 movies from this participation online on my onesownthoughst YouTube channel: a LISTED one that one cd find w/ a search in wch the movie's backward ( https://youtu.be/Nl6VVzCzaMY ), & an UNLISTED one in wch it's forward ( https://youtu.be/ywB0rs0D4L0 ). The notes to the LISTED backward version say this:

"[definite article missing in Ojibway, not usually translated in Chinese, not expressed unless emphasis is required when "itu" 'that' is used in Malay] perchobaan tchi chwàngdzàu an gwójì inwewin ada an pada-berlaku dwoshù temenong gigi khayalan nibwakawin. - December 6, 2010 notes from Monty Cantsin

"Tags: international communication, khayalan, neoism, misunderstanding, WORM"

The notes to the UNLISTED forward version say this:

"I was invited to participate in a neoist "experiments & outcomes" event at WORM in the Netherlands by providing A Neoist Research Project & by doing something via international phone call on the nite of the event: Friday, December 3, 2010. I provided about 7 hrs of vaudeos to be presented & filled out a Neoist Research Project form that was sent me proposing "Daffy Diplomacy" - a project emphasizing MISCOMMUNICATION as an international language. On the nite of the event, I rc'vd a phone call from WORM to the projection booth where I was working. I put the phone on speaker mode so that I cd move around the rm a little & so that ambient sound cd be heard. I had 2 sound f/x CDs playing that I cd control the volumes of. One was being shuffled & the other played the tracks straight thru. This produced an unpredictable mix. Since I was following a presentation by someone in the dark claiming to be the editor of the Neoist Research Project bk, I, too, had my voice presented in the dark & I began w/ MY claim to be the editor of the bk. What followed mainly consisted of me reading from my proposal & slightly manipulating the f/x. At the end of my reading, one CD was playing a race car sound while the other played the sound of a helicopter taking off. I faded out the car & pushed the 'copter to max volume & then hung up the phone. I later learned that a performance that involved playing a pyrophone (a fire pipe organ to be precise) w/ hash in its pipes had been not too long before my part & that everyone was very stoned."

Now, obviously, I'm trying to communicate here but I'm also accepting that miscommunication is likely to result & might even be humorous (or fatal). I'd addressed this in an earlier piece called "Lost in Translation" (1997) (read the edited text here: http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/W1997.LostInTranslation.html ). The idea behind accepting the difficulties of communication (both technical & philosophical) & even exaggerating them creatively is partially to enhance one's ability to navigate thru communication obstacle courses. It's probably more practical to just learn as many languages as one is capable of but some of us take a different route that's more natural to us.

"The paradox is that the more this circulation increases, the more the name's indexical function-its ability to circumscribe a discrete referent-is undermined." - "CONCLUSION", Improper Names, p 221

Those concerns aside, I embraced Luther Blissett as the newest member of the collective identity family & was probably using it as my "Internet handle" for my 1st email address in 1996. I was even fortunate enuf to have a recording of my "Whoop-Up @ the Funny Farm" included in the "Luther Blissett Open Pop Star" CD compilation (WOT4) in 2000.

"Although these aliases retain the formal features of a proper name, their multiple and unpredictable iterations in the public sphere put into crisis the referential function of the proper name." - pp 4-5

& what if "the formal features of a proper name" aren't retained? What wd that put "into crisis"? _____?

"The French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu has defined symbolic power as the magic power to act on the social world through words. Drawing from J. L. Austin's reflections on the conditions of felicity of an utterance, Bourdieu argues that "the real source of the magic of performative utterances lies in the mystery of ministry, i.e. in the delegation of virtue by which an individual-king, priest or spokesperson-is mandated to speak on behalf of the group, this constituted in him and by him."" - p 5

Consider the following from an interview I conducted w/ Florian Cramer:

"FC: [..] if Bill Clinton, today, says, uh, "Drop the atom bomb over Moscow" then the atom bomb would actually be dropped because he has the power & the possibility to do so. & just by saying this & by, maybe, having a few codes, or whatever, this would be made to happen today. So you could say that modern linguistics in defining language as arbitrary is actually missing some aspects. It can not answer the question of how language is actually capable of directly invoking things or making things happen. & this is, for example, a matter which has been discussed by speech act theory - that's exactly the question of speech act theory, how you..

"2: Speech act?

"FC: Speech act theory, yes, by, notably by Austin & um..

"2: Austin's spelled A,u,s,t,i,n?

"FC: Exactly, yeah. He was an Oxford linguist, I think in the 1930s."

- Interview with Florian Cramer, Berlin, approximately July 21st, 1997ev, conducted by Party Teen on Couch #2 - abbreviated: "2" [aka tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE] - http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/InterviewCramer.html

"As noted, the first distinctive feature of improper names is to provide anonymity and a medium for mutual recognition to their users. By failing to designate an identifiable referent, improper names make it difficult for authorities to track down specific individuals while enabling participation in social and political activities on an informal basis." - p 8

I can think of possible exceptions to this but I won't mention them here, eh?!

"It is no accident that many improper names emerge in rural societies where forms of organized resistance are unconstituted and illegal. For instance, the historian John Maddicott has suggested that the legend of Robin Hood may originate from the attribution of the same alias to notorious English thieves in the early fourteenth century."


"In other circumstances, peasants and farmers were not named after an eponymous leader but deliberately chose to share a personal name to conspire against the authorities. Such is the case of Poor Konrad, the collective pseudonym adopted by the Swabian peasants of southern Germany during the rebellion against taxes in 1514; Captain Swing, a pseudonym employed by impoverished English farmworkers in the riots that swept the southeast of England and led to the destruction of thousands of mechanized threshing machines in 1830; and Rebecca, the name shared by the tenant farmers of southwest Wales to attack toll gates between 1839 and 1843 as a form of resistance against rents, tithes, and the enclosure of common lands." - p 8

Well, there you have it, most of page 8. 'Sorry' about that but I wanted to show how thoroughly researched this is & how dagnabbited informative. I knew nothing about any of the above & find it fascinating history. Thank you, Marco Deseriis. Such a learning Situation is NOT Normal or All Fucked Up! In fact, there's an extraordinary amt in Improper Names that I find very important:

"In particular, I show how Ray Johnson's idea of asking his addressees to "add to and return" or forward his mailings to third parties set in motion a network of correspondences that transformed the mail from a medium for interpersonal communication into a social space. The emergence of a distinctive <i>aesthetics of networking</i>-an aesthetics that shifts the emphasis from the production of objects to the manifold relations among networkers-has two major consequences for the art world. First, it restores the idea that the production and distribution of art can follow the logic-or, as Derrida puts it, the "madness"-of the gift rather than that of exchange value. Second, by affirming an ethics of radical inclusiveness, it creates an autonomous sphere for the production and distribution of art that challenges traditional curatorial practices." - p 12

I'm very glad that Deseriis gets into such theoretical issues. I particularly like & agree w/ the emphasis on "networking" (I'm not in agreement w/ the phrase "aesthetics of networking") & "an ethics of radical inclusiveness". In her bk entitled Networked Disruption Tatiana Bazzichelli quotes a text of mine entitled "A Few Simple Statements about Neoism" (November 6, 1994): "Neoism is a mind game. The purpose of the game is to provide stimulus for the players. Playing the game comes naturally to the players. People who aren't sure that they're Neoists aren't Neoists. No-one is a Neoist all the time. Not all mind games are Neoism." She then follows this quote w/ this observation:

"The above-mentioned text was written by tENTATIVELY, followed by a list of "Neoist-Mind Game Players", is quite peculiar because of its presentation of Neoism as a distributed network of people. When analysing the movement through the interwoven actions and interventions of various individuals, it is also worth mentioning the magazine Smile, launched by Stewart Home in February 1984, which soon became the zine of Neoism. It was created in order to question authorship and promote anonymity by propagating plagiarism". - p 84, Networked Disruption

Back to Deseriis: "At the same time, Neoists such as Stewart Home and Vittore Baroni understood that the multiple-use name strategy could be improved by designing practical guidelines to protect it from personal overidentification." - p 13

1ST, I note that after the Simple Neoism text there is a column to the left w/ the heading "Mind Game Players" (not "Neoist-Mind Game Players" but that's close enuf) but there's also a column in the middle headed "People Who May Be in a Nebulous Area between Column 1 & Column 3" & a column to the right headed "People Who May Think of Neoism as an Avant-garde Mail Art Movement". Immediately preceding these columns is a statement that says "The players whose playing stimulates me the most are the players who expand the field of the playing the most. These players avoid common contextualization traps. The following list is completely objective."

The uncritical reader may not notice that the "players whose playing stimulates me the most" [..] "avoid common contextualization traps". This is then followed by 3 columns of contextualization. Are these columns traps? Are they part of the Mind Game? Additionally, the critical reader might note that the statement "The following list is completely objective" is a highly objectionable one from the perspective of the open-mindedness of the philosophy implied.

In all 3 columns are the names Monty Cantsin, Karen Eliot, & Luther Blissett. Stewart Home is only in the left column, Vittore Baroni is only in the right column. I think these days I'd shift Vittore to the middle column. The last sentence of the Simple Neoism text is: "Most of them will probably object to being categorized."

As a person who has the 1st 2 issues of SMILE that Stewart published before he met us Neoists at APT 8 in London & as a person who got to know Stewart reasonably well after that I take some exception to both Bazzichelli & Deseriis's characterization of him.

The 1st 2 issues of SMILE both have pictures of Stewart on the cover. The introductory page of issue 1 has this:




This is followed by a "SPECIAL NOTICE" that begins:

"You are invited to take part in my latest work by sending me cash/cheques/postal orders (made payable to Stewart Home) at the above address. NB Participation is on a strictly non-returnable basis."

The rest of the issue is manifesto-like statements & simple poetry w/ a sense of humo(u)r. Here's a sample poem:


"ah aradia

i sent her flowers

the day after

i shaved my pubic hair"

& here's an except from a manifesto-like statement entitled "STRATEGY FOR SUCCESS OR HOW TO ACTUALIZE ANY DESIRE":

"My gimmick is that I use advertising to expose the mechanisms of advertising and then sell this as art.

"Exposing the mechanisms of advertising is one of the easiest methods of disguising their use."

Both issues are identified as having been created by "Stewart Home". There're 4 versions of the documentary movie entitled "The 8th International Neoist Apartment Festival". The longest is 100 minutes. At the 1st communal meal shown, wch was largely made of vegetables gleaned from Covent Garden by Pete Horobin very early in the morning when vegetables are strewn on the ground there, a series of close-ups were shot of attendees.

Carlo Pittore talks about "N-Ism" at Monty Cantsin's prompting. Eugenie Vincent covers her face & says that "My image is not allowed for non-commercial purposes." She was a highly pd fashion model at the time. Gail Litfin shows her "life-support system", a device attached to her that periodically gave her insulin injections.

Stewart appears at 25:30 & says "Good morning. I am the Neoist Commuter &, so far, this week, I have commuted in from Woking on the 1158 to Waterloo every day for the Apartment Festival." [This gets applause from the other feasters gathered there.] Eugenie waves the 2nd issue of SMILE back & forth behind Stewart's head.

A few sentences later he reaches "My interest is to be rich, famous, & glamorous. So, if anyone would like to donate me some money they can write me care of Monty.. & I am available for hire for parties & other private functions at 50 pounds an hour." Pittore gregariously adds: "Well worth it, well worth it. We chipped in last night & raised the 50 pounds & it was the best hour any of us ever had." Gail added "After midnight discount, of course" to wch Pittore amended "Oh, yes, that's right. We only paid 42." Monty then proposes that we ask questions of the vegetables. The environment was affable & supportive of the 'new guy', Stewart.

At 1:05:24 Stewart appears as part of the Neoist event at the London Musician's Collective. This event didn't attract anyone from the general public. Even the 2 guys who let us into the space went across the street to a pub while the event happened. Andre Stitt & his friends were boycotting the festival but they were lurking around outside.

Stewart started off by giving the attendees envelops w/ Personal Ads taken from the newspaper in them. These were read by the recipients. At 1:06:36, Stewart then recites very short poems entitled "Bananas", "Tomatoes", "Melon", "Cucumber", & Turnips". That was it, it was over by 1:07:19.

Stewart had a sense of humor but his announcements that "THIS MAGNIFICENT NEW ARTISTIC MOVEMENT IS SO AVANT-GARDE THAT AT PRESENT IT ONLY HAS ONE MEMBER, MYSELF" & "Exposing the mechanisms of advertising is one of the easiest methods of disguising their use." & "My interest is to be rich, famous, & glamorous" were all more telling than dismissing them as levity might admit.

The humo(u)r of "SMILE THE OFFICIAL ORGAN OF THE GENERATION POSITIVE", was in its transparent self-servingness & banality. But how far wd Stewart have been able to pursue this w/o the assistance of the much more experienced networking of the Neoists? It's my contention that Stewart was less concerned w/ "question[ing] authorship and promot[ing] anonymity by propagating plagiarism" (Bazzichelli) & less concerned w/ "designing practical guidelines to protect [the multiple-use name strategy] from personal overidentification" (Deseriis) than he was in furthering becoming "rich, famous, & glamorous" thru having things ultimately be associated w/ one Stewart Home. That doesn't mean that he wasn't witty throughout, it simply means that writers delving into his work tend to overlook that "Exposing the mechanisms of advertising is one of the easiest methods of disguising their use."

There were many of us who were addressing the issue of how best to use the "multiple-use name" as is evidenced by Peter Below's late 1984 publication entitled "neoism open popstar popstar Cantsin/Kantor" wch included contributions by:

Peter Below

Pete Horobin

Vittore Baroni

David Zack

Mark Bloch


Monty Cantsin (alias Tentatively)

& Monty Cantsin (alias Istvan Kantor)

Stewart certainly played a part in this process but his motives weren't necessarily purely for "designing practical guidelines to protect [the multiple-use name strategy] from personal overidentification". Particularly telling at this late date 32 yrs later is that there's a "Stewart Home Society" online (created by Stewart) & an "http://www.istvankantor.com/" (created by Istvan) but no such websites named after Below, Horobin, Baroni, Zack, Bloch, Sevöl, or Tolson (tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE). It's my opinion that Stewart was, from the very beginning, more preoccupied w/ making himself a brand-name than w/ issues of "anonymity". That doesn't mean it hasn't been funny at times (& incredibly vicious at others).

Deseriis's level of scholarliness is consistently high: "Let us also briefly consider the case of Jane, an alias that was adopted by a group of feminist activists from Chicago, Illinois, to run an illegal abortion service used by thousands of women in the years leading up to the Supreme Court's landmark decision to legalize abortion in 1973." (p 15) How many Americans know about this let alone an Italian? Deseriis refers the reader to Laura Kaplan's bk The Story of Jane: The Legendary Underground Feminist Abortion Service (Pantheon Book, 1992). I'd add to that the movie entitled Jane: An Abortion Service (1995). Deseriis is also succinct:

"As noted in the opening pages of this introduction, the main distinctive feature of improper names is to provide anonymity and a medium for recognition by their users. By failing to designate clearly identifiable referents, improper names make it difficult for authorities to track down specific individuals while enabling individuals to participate in social and political activities on an informal basis. The primary political function of improper names is thus to challenge the governmental techniques whereby an individual is classified as a subject of knowledge, a patient, a criminal, a taxpayer, and so forth." - p 24

Note that he expresses the above as "to challenge the governmental techniques whereby an individual is classified". A person more naive about the domination of power (or more benefitted by it) might've written "to avoid justice". I'm more sympathetic to Deseriis's take. As one of my self-inking rubber stamps reads: "When Money's God Poor People are the Human Sacrifices", as another one reads: "Wee are all UNEQUAL under the LAW & THAT is its PURPOSE". Naturally, a sociopathic prosecutor out to advance his or her political power & wealth thru successfully prosecuting regardless of the realities of the case might find such wind blowing away their smokescreen to be 'offensive'.

Even tho, as w/ most people who use the term "Luddite" from time-to-time, I'm familiar w/ "Ned Ludd" ever-so-slightly, I'd never gone into the detail that Deseriis provides:

"On March 11, 1811, a large demonstration of framework knitters gathered at the Nottingham marketplace. The knitters reclaimed higher wages and lamented the growing employment in the hosiery and lace trades of the region of new labor-saving machines known as wide frameworks. The demonstration was quickly dispersed by the military. On that same night, sixty wide stocking frames were destroyed in Arnold, a large village northeast of the city, "by rioters who took no precautions in disguising themselves and who were cheered on by the crowd."" - p 29

"First, contrary to popular identification of Luddism with technophobia, the Luddites targeted only the manufactories and the machines that downsized the workforce and drove down the wages by facilitating the employment of untrained workers." - p 30

"Thompson effectively describes this dynamic: "When markets were sluggish, manufacturers took advantage of the situation by putting out work to weavers desperate for employment at any price, thereby compelling them 'to manufacture great quantities of goods at a time, when they are absolutely not wanted.' With the return of demand, the goods were then released on the market at cut price, so that each minor recession was succeeded by a period in which the market was glutted with cheap goods therebu holding wages down to their recession level." - Thompson, Making of the English Working Class, pp 277-278 as quoted in endnote 68, Improper Name, p 231

After Ludd, Deseriis moves on to Smithee: "The case of Allen Smithee-a pseudonym introduced by the Directors Guild of America (DGA) for Hollywood film directors who wished to disown movies that he been recut by third parties". While I knew about this facet of Smithee, it's not exactly how he was 1st introduced to me.

My friend Johnny Evans, who works on Hollywood movies, 1st told me about Smithee, maybe in 2001, & explained it along the lines of: 'It's a name people in movies use when they don't want to be associated with a movie that they've worked on, like a porn.' SO, happy to add that particular "improper name" to my pantheon, in December of 2001 I made a remake of the 1st 2 scenes of Tom Graeff's 1959 movie entitled "Teenagers from Outer Space". The remake was entitled "Teenagers from Inner Space" & is on my onesownthoughts YouTube channel here: https://youtu.be/mTxvaTGk7Rc . I credited the movie to: "Alan Smithee (yet another "Ed Wood of the Avant Garde" production)".

Note 11 on p 235 claims: "For a complete list of Smithee's works, see "Alan Smithee," http://www.imdb.com/ ." I found the list on http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000647/ . The list covers from "The Indiscreet Mrs. Jarvis" (TV short) (1955) to "How to Sell a Film" (documentary) (2016) but there's no entry for 2001 & there's no mention of my "Teenagers from Inner Space" even tho a listing of that wd've been searchable online by no later than 2002. Hence, the 'completeness', as is common - esp on imdb, is restricted to Hollywood product w/ money behind it. It wd probably never occur to whoever compiled this list that someone outside of Hollywood might want to make a movie under Smithee's name - & that omission, of course, is short-sighted. I don't see any porn listed either although "Waad: The Life & Times of John C. Holmes" (documentary) (1999) comes close & I'm not sure about "Street Walkers 3" (video) (2005).

I'm also not sure if I've ever even witnessed any Smithee movies other than my own

but reading Improper Names has gotten me interested in the Disney "An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn" (1997) & looking at the imdb list has gotten me interested in "Bloodsucking Pharaohs of Pittsburgh" (1991).

The imdb list starts in 1955 but the general birthyear for Smithee appears to be 1969 w/ "Death of a Gunfighter" (the 3 that precede it on imdb are all TV movies).

"Besides marking the birth of Allen Smithee, 1969 is a notable year in the history of Hollywood as it also marks the first year of full implementation of the current film-rating system, which replaced the obsolete Motion Picture Production Code. Originally introduced in 1930, to hold in the tendency of the eight Hollywood studios to produce salacious or sensational films every time box-office revenues dwindled, the Motion Picture Production Code (or Hays Code) was terminated by the Motion Picture Association of America in 1968 after repeated violations had shown its untenability." - p 76

People interested in Hollywood movies made between 1930 & 1934 when the Hays Code was introduced but not enforced are directed to a DVD set entitled "Pre-Code Hollywood Collection". I expected cheap sensationalism but was impressed by the quality of most of them. I particularly liked "Search for Beauty" (Eric C. Keaton - 1934) & "Murder at the Vanities" (Mitchell Leisen - 1934) has Duke Ellington's Orchestra in it.

The Smithee discussion brings up a philosophical position I wish to challenge: "In "Notes on the Auteur Theory in 1962," Sarris adapted the French debate to the American context by arguing that the commercial nature of Hollywood cinema had forced U.S. directors to express their personality through visual style rather than adaptations of literary materials. In defining a great director as someone who is technically skilled, stylistically recognizable, and able to bestow an "interior meaning" upon his material" [..] (p 78) I cut off the last sentence b/c its continuation is beside the point for what I want to address. Sarris's definition of a "great director" seems oversimplistic to me. I don't think that a "great director" 'needs' to have any of those 3 qualities. Instead, I think a 'great director' is someone who has a unique vision who then manages to manifest that unique vision to their satisfaction. HAVING & DOING.

I take particular objection to the "stylistically recognizable" criteria & think that it's just as likely (or more) to be a sign of mediocrity as it is of greatness. I'm far more interested in creative people who aren't one-trick-ponies but are, instead, capable of changing their style frequently in order to show that they're thinking anew w/ each new project. Even more exceptionally, a person who's a moviemaker for one project, a composer for another, a writer for a 3rd, etc, etc, is much more likely to be thinking of the BIG PICTURE that unites these things than s/he is w/ creating a style-brand. Such folks are generally less popular but that's usually a sign of quality in my world.

I learned about Tony Kaye & his asking for a Smithee credit for "American History X". Furthermore, I read that "Kaye saw his filmmaking as an extension of his mid-1990s "Hype Art," a series of conceptual "investigation[s] into the value of art." These included the hiring and exhibition of a homeless man at the Tate art gallery of London (Roger, by Tony Kaye)" (p 83)

It's hard for me to not perceive Kaye as a high profile sensationalist exploiter rather than a serious critic of the art world. I don't know whether he intentionally 'exhibited' the homeless man at the Tate w/ the Tate's history in mind but according to Graham Harwood the Tate was originally a prison built to contain the body odor of people about to be shipped out to what were then the British colonies (now the us@) into 'indentured servitude' (a slightly prettied-up slavery) . Witness "Philosopher's Union Member's Mouthpieces #00,031: "Graham Harwood & Minder"" (1988) here: http://youtu.be/nCfheydB2v4 . More specifically, if you're just interested in the Tate part, start here:

http://youtu.be/nCfheydB2v4?t=2m5s .

Furthermore, I think of my own collaboration w/ the local street drunks who squatted the bldg adjacent to where I was living in South Baltimore: "Alternatives to Vicious Cycles: The Intermingling of Subcultures to Facilitate Understanding" - Emergency Show, M.A.P., Baltimore, us@ (Friday, December 9, 1983). This piece didn't exactly make me popular in the art world. See the description & fotos here: http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/MereOutline1983.html .


"For example, in Student Bodies (1981), a parody of the late-1970s slasher horror film subgenre, producer and codirector Michael Ritchie decided to remove his name from the film credits. But instead of replacing his directing credit with Smithee;s, he left writer and codirector Mickey Rose to sign the film on his own and inserted a Smithee credit in the list of producers." - p 86

I assert that my own use of Alan Smithee w/ "Teenagers from Inner Space" & its "Ed Wood of the Avant Garde" production credit is far more anomalous b/c of its self-conscious embracing of the 'badness' - the remake is meant to push the unbelievablility envelope of the movie that it's a take-off of even further & the references to Smithee & Wood are signifiers of this.

There's serious politics running thru all this: "The Hollywood blacklist was formally instituted by studio executives on November 25, 1947, the day after a group of writers and directors known as the Hollywood Ten were cited for contempt of Congress (and subsequently tried and incarcerated) for their refusal to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC)." (p 88) I think of Dashiell Hammett, arguably my favorite crime fiction writer, certainly in my top 5:

"During the hearing Hammett refused to provide the information the government wanted, specifically, the list of contributors to the bail fund, "people who might be sympathetic enough to harbor the fugitives." Instead, on every question regarding the CRC or the bail fund, Hammett took the Fifth Amendment, refusing to even identify his signature or initials on CRC documents the government had subpoenaed. As soon as his testimony concluded, Hammett was found guilty of contempt of court.

"Hammett served time in a West Virginia federal penitentiary where, according to Lillian Hellman, he was assigned to cleaning toilets. Hellman noted in her eulogy of Hammett that he submitted to prison rather than reveal the names of the contributors to the fund because "he had come to the conclusion that a man should keep his word." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dashiell_Hammett

For more on my take on Hammett's political history read my capsule review of his 1st novel, Red Harvest here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/386293.Red_Harvest .

I'm not personally as invested in Ludd & Smithee as I am in what's up next: "Monty Cantsin, The Open Pop Star". Here's where I start to get more picky. The chapter begins w/ an epigraph:

"Neoism is a state of mind. This is why it transforms itself according to the situations it encounters. Neoism applies itself to everything, and yet it is nothing; it is the point at which all opposites collapse. -THE UNKNOWN NEOIST" - p 97

Immediately my hackles start to rise. The concept of "the unknown neoist" was, to the best of my 'knowledge', created by Montréal-based neoist Boris Wanowitch as a way of humorously picking out people from fotos & the like & declaring them "the unknown neoist" in order to project an imaginary life on them. As such, it isn't generally used as a mouthpiece for putting intellectual statements into as much as it is a way of inserting a quickie 'in-joke'. Of course, it doesn't have to be that way.

Making it even worse, for me, is that on p 238 there's this explanation: "The first epigraph to this chapter is plagiarized from Tristan Tzara's famous lecture on Dada: "Dada is a state of mind. This is why it transforms itself according to races and events. Dada applies itself to everything, and yet it is nothing, it is the point where the yes and the no and all the opposites meet." See Tristan Tzara, "Lecture on Dada," 1922, in The Dada Painters and Poets: An Anthology, ed. Robert Motherwell (Boston, Mass.: G. K. Hall, 1981), 251."

Now I love dada & I love Tzara & I've even adapted & repurposed Richard Huelsenbeck and Raoul Hausmann's 1919 "What is Dadaism and what does it want in Germany?" ( http://www.mariabuszek.com/kcai/DadaSurrealism/DadaSurrReadings/DadaGrmny.pdf ) in a 'review' of a band called Stale Urine's tape called "The Fourteen Points" posting it beginning thusly:

"I just came across this rather odd review of Stale Urine's "The Fourteen Points" & I thought I'd pass it along:


"Stale Urine demands

"1. The international revolutionary alliance of all creative and intellectual peoples in the entire world based on radical home-taping," - http://www.blorf.com/su/reviews/party-teen.html

as a variation on the dadaist beginning of:

"What is Dadaism and what does it want in Germany?

"1 Dadaism demands:

"1)  The international revolutionary union of all creative and intellectual men and women on the basis of radical Communism;"

wch, in turn seems to be an adaption & repurposing of previous revolutionary creeds as well as a take-off of the original "Fourteen Points" wch "was a statement of principles for world peace that was to be used for peace negotiations in order to end World War I. The principles were outlined in a January 8, 1918 speech on war aims and peace terms to the United States Congress by President Woodrow Wilson." ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourteen_Points )

Given that the Stale Urine K7 I 'reviewed' was inspired by the 1918 "Fourteen Points" the 'review' I posted was meant to similarly expand upon the relevant critical & political lineage.

That sd, I am thoroughly SICK of the association of Neoism w/ 'plagiarism'. Before Stewart Home there really weren't any Neoist Manifestos (that's a little misleading but I don't want to get into even more detail just now) b/c Neoists didn't want there to be any. Stewart knew that in order to capture the LCD (Lowest Common Denominator) interest & to make an art world career therefrom there had to be a manifesto & some cultural program that any idiot cd follow w/o thinking about it AND that it had to sound 'sexy' by having the pose of being bad w/o actually requiring any risk-taking on the part of the participant. 'Plagiarism' fit the bill perfectly. Is it any wonder that Home has a novel called Defiant Pose & that his public image has been that of a skinhead even tho he's not a skinhead?

"Monty Cantsin is to my knowledge the first experiment in which a pseudonym was released in the public domain with virtually no guidelines or instructions for use." - p 97

"In this respect, the Monty Cantsin strategy can be elegantly summarized in one simple statement: "The name is fixed, the people using it aren't."" - p 98

An endnote on p 238 prompts me to suggest that you look here: http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/SM1984.07.proposal.html

"My wager if that with the invention of Monty Cantsin, the inclusive, participatory, and selfless ethos of mail art came unwittingly into conflict with a cognitive nihilism that aimed at destroying all truth-claims. Embodied by Neoism-a pseudo-avant-garde that became strictly associated with the multiple-use name-this nihilistic approach claimed to eschew all categorizations." - p 98

On the use of the term "avant-garde" I quote myself:

"As someone born in 1953, I came along decades after the idea of the "Avant-Garde" was established. As a young man, I found the activities of the avant-garde very stimulating. In fact, I still do. HOWEVER, as I understood the avant-garde it was meant to refer to the cutting edge of innovative cultural production & it's long since seemed to me that CONTEXT is extremely important for that. As such, I think that the CONTEXT of the "Avant-Garde" has outlived its own usefullness. In other words, once a context has been established, it's no longer cutting edge.

"Hence when I was in conversation with people in, say, no later than 1981 & they automatically assumed that my work was 'avant-garde' I'd explain that I preferred a different context, a fresher context, a more cutting edge context, a context I created myself. Since the mid 1970s I've been explaining to people that I'm a Mad Scientist / d composer / Sound Thinker / Thought Collector / As Been - a self-description I've long since expanded upon greatly - & NOT an "artist". I was trying to get people to understand that I think "art" is an outmoded context." - http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/Book2000Dictionary.html

Therefore, I don't think of Neoism as "a pseudo-avant-garde" & I don't see any good reason why it has to be associated w/ the "avant-garde" at all or w/ any other art world terminology. Some people involved w/ Neoism make money from the art world but that seems to be mainly a matter of that's-where-the-money-is or that's-where-the-resources-are & not something intrinsic to Neoism itself. Categorizing Neoism as an "avant-garde" or "a pseudo-avant-garde" is, unfortunately, part & parcel of the 'need' that people seem to have to get 'closure' thru oversimplification.

"Home was one of the first persons to understand that without guidelines (and this without an ethos), the multiple-use name strategy was doomed to fail." - p 99

Fail at what?! It seems that many people studying Neoism take for granted that there's a monolithic sense of purpose that cd 'succeed' or 'fail'. As "Blaster" Al Ackerman wrote: "Quite a while ago I was in downtown Jersey City, looking for a place called Li Po Books, when I saw a sign in a shop window that said: "YOU CAN DO DISHES IN YOUR NEW DARKROOM--OR--YOU CAN PHOTOGRAPH SOME OF THE WORLD'S MOST BEAUTIFUL MODELS!"" (CORN&SMOKE, p 49)

Deseriis recites one of the Monty Cantsin myths: "If Zack's account is accurate, the name "Monty Cantsins" was generated by a certain playful alliteration on Kudnzins's name. Besides being typical of sound poetry experiments-in which both Zack and Kundzins were well versed" [..] (pp 100-101) As Deseriis points out, "Blaster" doesn't mention Kundzins at all in his "Origins of Neoism Illuminated" (Photostatic, no. 38 (October 1989): 1416 - also online here: http://www.thing.de/projekte/7:9%23/ack_neoism.html ). Having known Blaster & Zack both, I'd put my money on Blaster's acct. As I explain in my review of the Zack bk published by Istvan Kantor:

"it was this characteristic obliviousness that I remember about Zack - & it was more of a source of irritation for me than it was a matter of interest. In Zack's writings about 81 APT he talks about me as a vegetarian. Well, I'm not a vegetarian & Zack & I lived together & ate together in the same kitchen where he wd've probably seen me eat ground beef on many an occasion in the tomato sauces for spaghetti that I routinely ate at the time. It was when I read such 'descriptions' of Zack's that I realized just how out-of-it he was. 

"Ok, he was a diabetic - so we can use that as an excuse somewhat. But I was lovers w/ another diabetic & knew another diabetic writer. Neither of them were out-of-it. I think Zack just didn't really care about other people very much - certainly not enuf to pay attn to them. When I was in Scotland at the DATA Attic in 1988, Pete Horobin showed me a video of Zack & his traveling companion Snow White Jung sitting around talking w/ Pete. Pete & Snow wd have a conversational exchange & then Zack wd pipe in as if he were contributing to the conversation. What was astounding was that, at least as I recall it, nothing that Zack sd seemed to indicate in any way that he had been paying attn to what Snow White & Pete were saying."


"I just got the impression that Zack simply wasn't listening. "Blaster" Al, a long-time Zack friend, has called this characteristic Zack's "otherworldliness" in conversation w/ me - a typical humorous euphemism on Ackerman's part."

- http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/Book2010Zack.html

Hence, I find Zack's acct of his relationship w/ Maris Kundzins dubious to the point of being dismissable.

As for Zack being "well versed" in "sound poetry experiments"? I never saw any evidence of that whatsoever. To return to my review of Amazing Letters:

"When Zack was at 81 APT he sat around all day long, on the front porch, on the roof over the front porch, in the attic, wherever, playing tenor guitar or bouzouki & playing the same small selection of chords over & OVER again singing some of the most uninspired & repetitive lyrics known to history. & this went on, I SHIT YOU NOT, for up to 3 or 4 hrs at a time. I witnessed almost no indication of talent whatsoever. Basically, he did w/ music what he seemed to do w/ everything else: meander aimlessly w/o inspiration in a way almost completely oblivious to his surroundings. & this is described by others in "Amazing Letters". 

"Zack wd send me tapes of him playing & talking - usually recorded on extremely cheap Mexican cassettes. The recording quality was always muffled, the playing always meandering & interrupted by banal talking that interfered w/ whatever minimal musical quality his cello playing sometimes had when he wasn't 'improvising' but was playing something from his classical repertoire instead."

In other words, I never heard any traces of even basic Sound Poetry from him - let alone signs of his being "well versed". As for Maris Kundzins? I never knew the man. Online he has some post-mortem presence & is mainly described as living in Japan & Seattle. Nowhere online do I find any mention of his living in Portland. That doesn't mean he didn't. Of course, Portland is only 173 miles from Seattle.

In an obituary for him it says "Maris was deeply involved in the Seattle art scene. His creative interests were many but primarily focused on language in visual and sound forms." ( http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/seattletimes/obituary.aspx?pid=148289903 ) I' ve never come across any evidence whatsoever that Kundzins was ever a "Monty Cantsin" or involved in Neoism in any way. I've also never known anyone who corresponded w/ him.

Then again, I find Ackerman's acct suspect too b/c of this part of "Origins of Neoism Illuminated":

"Kantor, in the role of "Monty Cantsin," would enter a convenience store, go to the back and pretend to have a heart attack; he did this primarily in Hungarian which added a good deal to the confusion and uproar that would then ensue, and when the store manager and the other customers were being distracted sufficiently by "Monty Cantsin's" "heart attack" at the rear of the store, Zack would dart in at the front and carry out as many cases of beer or soda pop as he could manage to lift and exit with it. Then "Monty Cantsin" would pretend to recover from his attack, get up and beat it out of the store. This went on for many months, on an average of 4-5 times a week, at different convenience stores around town."

The part I doubt is the claim that "This went on for many months, on an average of 4-5 times a week". It seems to me that the scam wd've been discovered much too quickly for it to go on for that long. Nonetheless, it's possible.

"In Montréal, Kantor came into contact with a group of young artists, musicians, and philosophers who were heavily influenced by French existentialism and, according to Baltimore-based neoist John Berndt, "had a very right-wing, crackpot brown-shirt fascist aesthetics." This group-which included Tristan Stéphane Renaud (aka Zbigniew Brotgehirn), Jean-Luc Bonspiel (aka Kiki Bonbon), Pierre Zovile (aka Boris Wanowitch), Alan Sanchez (aka Alan Lord), R. U. SEVOL, and Napoléon Moffat, among others-played a key role in developing the early phase of Neoism." - p 103

"John Berndt, interview with the author, Baltimore, December 15, 2009. Berndt adds, "This group of juvenile delinquents recognized in Kantor a guy who was pretending to be a fascist leader and took him seriously, in a way." The term fascist is not to be understood in a strictly political sense, but rather as a rebellious attitude toward the (art) system, which occasionally took on a violent or vandalic character. In the same interview, Berndt explains that the "[Montreal Neoists] would go into an art gallery, enter the bathroom, set steam irons on fire, and torch the paintings in the gallery."" - endnote 15, p 240

I got this bk on October 22, 2015, was very excited, & emailed the author by the next day. In response to some of the above I wrote him:

"John was born on October 1, 1967.  He didn't learn about Neoism until 1984 when he was 16 years old & he met me at my ex-girlfriend Leanne Johnson's apartment where I showed 2 super-8 films that I'd just made: "Neoist Guide Dog", which you know about (on my onesownthoughts YouTube channel here: https://youtu.be/vM92UGWzMPM & (NOT) to be confused with Florian's re-enactment of 25 years or so later), & "Les Promenades Hysteriques", made in Paris with Via Vidorae (Marianne Lebas) & Reinhardt U. Sevol.  

"John's 1st actual face-to-face encounter with any of those Montreal folks wasn't until 1986 when he joined me briefly in Montreal for a performance at the SCP's Bunker as part of my "6 Fingers Crossed Country T.Ore/Tour".  By then, the period John's referring to was already over.  As such, John never had any direct experience with what he's 'describing'.  

"John was a very intelligent & precocious young man but he was still a teenager during the period he 'describes' 3rd hand.  Because neoism was very important in his later development, he has a tendency to act & feel as if he were there when, actually, he wasn't.  He only participated in 3 neoist festivals: the 1986 one in Berlin, 1987's "Ultimaum II" organized by Alan Lord, & the 2nd fest in NYC in 1988


"John is not a political person, he has little or no knowledge of political history &, in some sense, tends to be rather 'conservative' insofar as he is a businessman from a wealthy family."  [April 7, 2016 interpolation: In a recent email exchange between John & myself he described his political involvement differently than I've described it here. As such, he wd probably disagree w/ some of what I've written.] "As such, any reference to "brown-shirts" may appear politically informed but is more fancifully imagistic.  If you want to see a performance from the era under examination, I strongly suggest that you watch this video of a performance of Monty/Istvan's on Canadian TV from 1984:  


"I think that you'll see that calling it "very right-wing, crackpot brown-shirt" is a bit misleading.  The person in this performance whose shoulders & hat are set on fire is Boris Wanowitch (Pierre Zovile) of "Computer Graphics Conspiracy" who is an anarchist & who would vehemently object to being said to have any "fascist aesthetic" at all.  When Stewart Home made a fake neoist website many years ago that used Frank Frazetta Conan the Barbarian type imagery & used swastikas Boris was very upset by the prank.  Unlike John, Boris & Monty/Istvan are fairly serious politically.  

"As for the influence of "French existentialism"?  When I 1st met Kiki (Jean-Luc) & Zbigniew (Tristan) in early 1981 they stressed German philosophy & "severity".  I don't recall hearing anyone EVER mentioning existentialism.  "Severity" was an important concept in those early Montreal years & is sometimes confused with Fascism.  Kiki & Zbigniew wore skinny ties that they tucked into the fronts of their button-down shirts & otherwise affected a 'look' that might include jodhpurs.  It's worth noting that by 1992 Kiki was working for an anti-Fascist watchdog organization In Montreal & Istvan/Monty was performing in a wide-striped uniform evocative of a concentration camp prisoner while also wearing high heels & playing scrap metal (at the "Zeroworks Jubilee" which I was a part of & John wasn't).  "

Additional April 7, 2016 thoughts:

There're many things I strongly disagree w/ in Berndt's acct. Conflated together are Zbigniew Brotgehirn, Kiki Bonbon, Boris Wanowitch, Alan Lord, Reinhardt U. Sevol, & Napoléon Moffat. According to Kiki (in a Facebook post on February 13, 2016), during APT 81 (February, 1981) Napoleon was 18, Kiki was 19, & Zbigniew was 20. Reinhardt had already moved away from Canada. Boris & Alan weren't involved w/ Neoism yet. They were also a bit older than the 3 whose ages have been mentioned + Reinhardt (who might've also been in his late teens). I don't recall meeting Boris until the Sixth International Apartment Festival (February, 1983) in Montréal. Boris had studied architecture in France before moving to Montréal, Alan was a rock musician. Both of them were considerably more mature than John's acct makes it seem.

As far as the story that the Montreal Neoists "go[ing] into an art gallery, enter[ing] the bathroom, set[ting] steam irons on fire, and torch[ing] the paintings in the gallery" goes, I know of no basis for this outside of John's imagination. I cd be wrong. However, I was in Montréal for APT 81 when Zbigniew gave what I believe to be the 1st performance using the flaming steam iron on February 20. At some point Kiki had explained to me that the image of a serenely floating bugeleisen (the German word that they preferred to call the steam iron by) had become an image of severity to them.

Since I have the video documentation from this, I relate the following after refreshing my memory by rewatching it: Zbigniew's performance began w/ him pointing to a print of Edvard Munch's painting "The Scream" & saying that "I think, personally, that Edvard Munch draw this picture when he saw himself in an iron one day." Eventually he paints rubber cement on the handle & sides of a steam iron, sets it on fire, & then holds it from underneath while a Gary Numan electro-pop song plays. He has occasional problems w/ the burning getting out-of-control & the way he's holding it is awkward & sometimes he has to put it down to avoid burning himself. The glue bottle & the table both accidentally catch on fire.

I italicize the parts that I do because anyone who's participated in a Neoist Flaming Iron Ceremony since then knows that we put the rubber cement on the bottom & hold it by the handle w/ the bottom pointing upward. This is a much more controllable flaming situation. Zbigniew's performance was a test run.

Endnote 16 on p 241 continues the quoting: "According to Berndt, "there was a fairly clear division of responsibility in this gang. Kiki was the wild man and sort of the most dangerous, he had a place called the Peking Pool Room. Tristan was the musician, he made all of Monty's early music. Boris was the video guy, Napoléon was the theorist, and Alan Lord was the noise guitarist." This whole description in terms of a "gang" is just ludicrous.

Kiki was very cool & well-spoken, an excellent bilinguist speaking both French & English perfectly. Yes, he cd be violent & his performances often were but John's description probably evokes for many people a drunk guy w/ long hair instead of someone as polite as Kiki actually was. It's also misleading to say that Kiki "had a place called the Peking Pool Room". The Peking Poolroom was just the name he gave his 2nd & 3rd floor apartment, it wasn't a business or a public space. Kiki & Tristan were good friends b/c they had much in common, it wasn't as divided as John states. Monty (Istvan) worked w/ various musicians including a guy named "TTP", Kiki was a musician, the Mignault brothers were also young musicians who were around at the time.

On Monty's 1st EP, "neoist songs" (1982), Bill Vorn did the arrangements & played synthesizers, Zbigniew had nothing to do w/ it. On his 1987 EP, "Born Again in Flames", Gaetan Gravel AND Zbigniew (Tristan) did the arrangements & played the electronic instruments. On his LP, "Ahora Neoismus" (1988), Vorn, Gravel, & Renaud (Zbigniew) all did the music.

As explained before, Boris & Alan came along later. Boris wasn't the "video guy", he did computer graphics. As far as I know, Alan was never a "noise guitarist". On the "Vent Du Mont Schärr" EP that I have (1987), Alan plays straight-forward rock guitar & Kiki sings in a straight-forward pop vocal style (no doubt w/ considerably more subtle lyrics & French-Canadian inflection than I can pick up on). Jack V (Five) is the bassist, Jean-Martin Mignault is the drummer, & Guy Boulanger does the mixing.

Then we move on to Stewart Home's misrepresentation: "Home contends that by then" [1980] "Neoism had replaced its original fascination for French Existentialism with a preference for italian Futurism." (p 104) Stewart didn't get involved w/ Neoism until APT 8, in London, in 1984. He never knew ANY of the Montréal Neoists except Monty (Istvan) & he never participated in ANY North American Neoist festivals. Almost ALL of Stewart's info for his Neoism chapter of his 1st bk Assault on Culture came from me. Since AK Press marketed his bks as from Neoism's main theorist or such such, he has to play the part of the 'expert'.

Since I actually KNEW Kiki when he was a teenager & exchanged publications w/ him, I have 4 chapbks of his entitled: "Brainless", "Escape From Memory", "Urban Figures", & "Strong, Clean & Reasonable" - the latter 2 being apparently credited to "Urban Projects". This last one seems to be from 1979. Near the beginning it has a quote attributed to J.L. Bonspiel:

"my mind is a factory mind

my mind is heavy industry incarnate"

Figurative stencil images inside seem to originate from Lion Lazer, another Montréal participant in the earliest days of Neoism. Another page has this written:

""Urban Project

the (neo) propagator: lazer/dog

Urban Project (death trip)

propagandan/counter attack

critique about urban life

the project involves films photos

action graphics tracts etc

Urban Project propaganda

provoque the brain (man becomes a rational being)

all emotions must be controled

or destroyed /he cannot live with emotions in the machine

we must be perfect and clean to keep it going"

"- Big Brother

(neo paper)





"Kill me!

And do another "test tube baby" at your


who can do this and that your way

do a perfect machine you meat head

"- lazer/dog"

Is that French Existentialism? Is it Italian Futurism? It seems closer to punk poetry informed by philosophical questing to me. Or just NEOISM. Fortunately, Deseriis isn't so easily taken in:

"Despite Home's attempt to portray the early Neoist poetics as a superficial exaltation of technology and of the new for its own sake, Futurism was probably not a major source of inspiration for early Neoists as the activities of the Montréal group were not reducible to a unified aesthetics." - p 104


"In an e-mail to the author, Florian Cramer writes, "I am practically 100% sure that nobody of the early Neoists was substantially influenced by Futurism. Neither have I encountered any reference to Italian futurism in early Neoist zines and pamphlets" - endnote 20, p 241

For awhile it was common practice, probably esp for Stewart, to say that Neoism was a hybrid of post-Fluxus/post-Situationist. I'd say that I personally had had an interest in Italian Futurism, Russian Futurism, Dada, Surrealism, Fluxus, Sound Poetry, Concrete Poetry, Visual Poetry, Performance Art, Concept(ual) Art, & Earth Art (& that's not even getting into whole large territories not associated w/ 'art') - w/ a peripheral interest in the Situationists (who hadn't really done much for me). Monty (Istvan) had collaborated w/ Robert Filliou so he had a Fluxus connection. I'd crossed paths w/ some Fluxus folks like Jackson Mac Low & Dick Higgins.

However, I think it's fair to say that Neoism didn't really directly grow out of any particular predecessor movement(s). Many of us were interested in many things. I'd been involved w/ the Language Poetry movement, eg. Some people were Queer activists. I'm an anarchist. Many of us have been Mail Artists. Gordon W. studied cooking & drumming in India. Via Vidorae was a bee-keeper in South Yemen at one point. Folk Music, Electro-Pop, Free Improv, & Noise Music have dominated Neoist circles but they're by no means the only musics that've been explored. My own (M)Usical interests & activities have been vastly varied. While Neoists are mostly a 'white' male bunch there have been women involved, there have been African Americans, now there's an Indonesian contingent, the influences have been pretty multifarious.

Deseriis quotes Home as saying in The Assault on Culture: ""video was to the Neoists what the motor car was to Marinetti."" (p 104) I think that's based in my telling Stewart that I thought that Neoism was the 1st mvmt to be able to document itself so thoroughly w/ video. Unlike Italian Futurism, however, this doesn't mean embracing technology for technology's sake, it means recognizing the value of one particular technology in the time we're living in. While previous mvmts had used film & video their use had been more confined to 'artistic' purposes. Video, as w/ Home Taping, had finally provided a cheap way for many people to share A/V material.

The 1st 2 APT Fests were documented w/ 1/2" reel-to-reel B&W video, 81APT (the one I organized in BalTimOre) used reel-to-reel again but also used color VHS cassette documentation. While such a thing might seem laughably 'primitive' to some now it was fantastic at the time to have consumer-level video available that cd shoot 2 hrs worth of material w/ instant playback capabilities. No more waiting for film processing times, no more waiting to see if the processing lab didn't follow instructions & destroyed the film, no more waiting to find out that the lab had stolen or destroyed the film because of sexual content.

"Although Neoism has created multiple contradictory definitions of itself to defy categorization, it is probably not inaccurate to say that the Neoists only performed the resurgence of a modern avant-garde movement. Such a resurgence was based on typical avant-garde gestures such as the manifesto and the performance. But rather than expressing a coherent aesthetics or (revolutionary) program, Neoist texts seem to express irresolvable contradictions and disagreements among the Neoists. And their performances are often marked by farcical, nonsensical poses that are parodic in character. This ironic stance signals that Neoism exhibits an acute awareness of the impossibility of reviving the avant-garde, which is nevertheless evoked in several texts and actions." - p 105

Endnote 26 is appended to the end of the above paragraph. As an example of what he's just been setting forth, Deseriis writes: "E.g., Guy Debord's Society of the Spectacle echoes in the "First Manifesto of Neoist Performance and the Performance of Neoism," a text authored by Stewart Home in 1984". (p 242) I've already addressed the issue of the avant-garde & my rejection of it as a viable context above. I've also already addressed Stewart Home's use of the manifesto. Stewart was a 22 yr old college student when he plagiarized the Situationists in the above example. At the time, Situationists were 'hip' for people just discovering political cultural theorizing. One example does not a representation of a mvmt make.

Neoist texts might very well "express irresolvable contradictions and disagreements". As w/ my comments re Sarris's idea of a 'great director', I'm opposed to "a coherent aesthetics or (revolutionary) program". I don't think any system works for everybody. Deseriis & I are going to 'have to 'agree to disagree' here. As for the claim that "their performances are often marked by farcical, nonsensical poses that are parodic in character"? It wd be nice to have an example, it wd be nice to have multiple examples since Deseriis is making a collective claim. I can't think of a single example that supports the claim off the top of my head right now. Maybe Stewart's re-enactment of Henry Flynt's demonstration against Stockhausen, an action, I'm given to understand, that Flynt regrets in retrospect as ill-targeted. Again, tho, that's Stewart, that's not necessarily any other Neoist.

"Also known as APTs, the apartment festivals kicked off in Montreal and continued on a yearly basis in various European and North American cities throughout the 1980s" - p 106

Given that what constitutes an Apartment Festival is ambiguous (EG: I'm proposing an international e-APT at the moment to use video-conferencing) here's my definitely-in-need-of-updating list of (arguably) Neoist Fests as of early 2016:

APT 1 - Sept 17-21, 1980 - No-Galero (Istvan/Monty's apartment), Montreal

Semain d'occupation Neoist - Oct 15-19, 1980 - Motivation 5, Montreal

APT 2 aka APT 81 - Feb 1981 - Peking Poolroom (Kiki Bonbon & Zbigniew Brotgehirn / Tristan Renaud's apartment), Montreal

APT 3 aka 81 APT - Friday, May 29th - Sunday, June 7th, 1981 - 318 W. 40th St, Baltimore (tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE's rented house)

Public Works/APT 4 - October 1981- Public Works / Low Theatre (Monty/Istvan's basement apartment), Toronto and Montreal

APT FIVE - March 15-21, 1982 - Multi-Locations (including Des Refuses), New York City

THE NEOIST NETWORK'S FIRST EUROPEAN TRAINING CAMP"- June 21-27, 1982 - Wurzburg, West Germany

Balkan Campaign - Sept 1982 - Novi-Sad, Belgrade, Zagreb

Le Sixieme Festival International D'Appartement (6th International Apartment Festival OR APT 6) - February 1983 - (Alan Lord's apartment, Pleine Lune, the streets, Olympic Basin on Ile Notre-Dame, etc), Montreal

APT 7 - September 20-28, 1983- tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE's apartment + the Galaxy Ballroom in the Congress Hotel (where part of Terry Gilliam's "Twelve Monkeys" was later shot) + "That Frame Place Gallery"], Baltimore

The Neoist Networks 8th Apartment Festival - May 21-26, 1984 - Events took place at the 13 Aulton house where Pete Horobin & Steve Thorne were living, out on the streets, at the London Musicians Collective, at the Greenwich Park (where the observatory is), & at Lambeth Pier, London

Ultimatum I - May 1-5, 1985 - Montreal

APT 9 - June 1-7, 1985 - Emilio Morandi Arte Studio, Ponte Nossa, Italy

'APT 10' - 1985 - Immortality Centre (David Zack's home), Tepoztlan, Mexico

APT 64 - 1986 - Artcore Studio, Stilletos Studio, Berlin, Germany

Ultimatum II - September, 1987 - Montreal

The Festival of Non-Participation - June 5, 1988 - August 20, 1988 - Glasgow, Dundee, Edinburgh, Tents Muir, etc..

The 1988 Neoist Anathema Party Take-over (note that "Anathema Party Take-over" forms the A.P.T. acronymn) or the ONE-MILLIONTH Neoist Apartment Festival.] - October, 1988 - Rivington School / Multi Location, New York City

"APT 14" [This is unfamiliar to me - if it was an Apartment Festival, I was never informed about it. At any rate, if it WAS an APT Fest, by my reckoning it wd've been the 12th (Berlin = 10, NYC = 11) but, by this point, sticking to linear numbering wd be completely out of keeping w/ the spirit of things] - 1991 - Transgression, Montreal

Zeroworks Jubilee - August, 1992 - Zeroworks Jubilee - 50 Wabash (Gordon W. Zealot's home by the junkyard], Toronto

Neoist Hungarian Tour [This was an APT Fest? in 3 different cities: In Vac it was: "XXXPanzio A Neoizmus?! Anti-Esemény / XXXPanzio In the Name of Neoism?! Anti-Event"; In (Buda)Pest it was: "Neoista?! Puccs"; In Debrecen it was: "Neoista?! Zajpiknik és Monty Cantsin? Kiképzôtábor / Tolerance (?) Festival & Camp - Neoist?! Noise Picnic and Monty Cantsin? Training Camp"] - July 2-6 (officially, this didn't start until the 4th, but there was plenty happening in the previous 2 days): Vac; July 7-9: Pest; July 11-12: Debrecen, 1997 - Multi-location, Budapest/Vac/Deberecen, Hungary

I'd also include the PoPo into the Wasteland that Jubal Brown (& Monty/Istvan?) organized in Toronto as part of the "7* 11*" Festival. August 22, 1998

"Archeologie du Neoisme - La Premiere Retrospective Filmique Mondiale du Neoisme" at AntiTube in Quebec - January 29 & 30, 1999

Neoist Festival - November 25-29, 1999 - Windsor

the 1st Non-Existent International Neoist Apartment Festival in the Year 000 - March 20-25, 2000; April 5 & June 8 - Adelaide, Australia

Department Festival - fall, 2004 - Multi Location, Berlin

Neoist Research Project - December, 2010 - Rotterdam

The Blasterthon!!!!!!! - 2 weekends in June, 2013 - multiple locations in BalTimOre

SO<, yes, the APT Fests, per se, were mainly an '80s thing when they happened more than once a yr, but all sorts of pimples on the bubble have popped up from time-to-time since then - including things not mentioned here b/c I don't know the details.

As for APT 4 happening "simultaneously in Montreal and Toronto" (p 106) actually they were consecutive: Toronto happened 1st, Montreal happened 2nd. Most of the Toronto participants didn't continue on to Montreal.

"After London, new APTs were held in the Italian village of Ponte Nossa (June 1985), Berlin (APT 64, December 1986), New York (the One Millionth APT, November 1988), and Paris (APT 63, December 1994 to January 1995)."

I quote from an email from Florian Cramer on August 5, 2011: "Yes, I'd consider APT 63 non-existent although, as you wrote, it involved John, Jake and me (Berit to a lesser extent; she lived in Paris back then and had organized the apartment for us, but was away most of the time) and a visit of me and John to Sevol in the suburb of Aubervilliers. John wrote a story about it which was probably the best thing about the whole week." Some APT Fests might be called figments of wishful thinking magnified thru rumors & reports: Apt 10/11 (Paris & Amsterdam, 1986) (There's a flier for this one so it may've happened as a one night event in Paris), APT 63 (Paris, 1994-1995), something in Vienna to launch a bk called "Neoismus" by Oliver Marchart - June, 1997 - generally ignored by most Neoists, the second non-existing Neoist APT (Wiesbaden, April 28th 2000), Neoist World Congress (fictitiously placed in Mexico by Cecil Touchon, October 2005), 2nd nON-eXIST tINT nEOIST cOMPARTMENT fISTFUL (Lily's bedroom, Olympia, us@, Saturday, November 11, 2006).

While I think these imaginary or exaggerated Neoist Festivals are potentially interesting in & of themselves, I prefer the Fests where Neoists are actually in each other's company conspiring & enacting rather than the fantasies of people like Touchon where no actual physical presence or conspiracy takes place. Wd you rather have sex w/ an actual physical person or post a report online about having sex w/ someone who doesn't actually exist?

Regarding my involvement w/ the Krononauts & the Church of the SubGenius along w/ Neoism, Deseriis writes in endnote 28 on p 242: "According to Stewart Home, the Church "bears a certain conceptual similarity ot the College of Pataphysics, but with a popularist rather than an intellectual approach. It is this lowest common denominator attitude that accounts for its success. Similar cults, such as the Krononauts-who among other things have held a 'Party For The People Of The Future' with the intention of attracting time travelers-are too rigorously intellectual to appeal to the average male college student." Home, Assault on Culture, 93-94"

Strangely enuf, I'd attribute the "success" of the Church of the SubGenius to the general hilarious brilliance of its products; the texts, the art, the bks, the rants, etc. I think it's far too complicated to be reducible to the LCD. For a fairly recent (2013) manifestation of SubGenius-dom see this "Devival" movie here: https://youtu.be/FfDCnTR03dg . As for calling the Krononauts a "cult"? I'm sure that wd surprise Richard, the founder of the Krononauts, who probably thought/thinks of it more as an art project. "[R]igorously intellectual"? I think not.

"It is clear, however, that participation in Neoism withered after the 1980s. There are several reasons for this, but the two main ones are the disintegration of the Montreal group and the harsh polemic between Home and Kantor over the "proper use" of Monty Cantsin. Even though a younger generation of Neoists, such as John Berndt and Florian Cramer, produced fresh actualizations and interpretations of Neoism in the later 1980s to early 1990s, the fissures caused by internal rivalries and diatribes were too many and ran too deep for the network to be repaired." - p 109

Ah.. Neoism Now & Then! W/ all due respect for Deseriis's considerable powers of analysis, it wd be very, very hard for anyone not directly in the thick of all this to see how things changed. Movements, esp ones manipulated by the Art World context, tend to become closed by historification in order to 'tidy up the marketing package'. Most Neoists have resisted this, as Deseriis is well aware, in the interest of preventing the creation of a false closure & in the interest of keeping Neoism ALIVE in the sense of adaptable rather than fenced in by manifestos, etc..

Participants have tended to come & go in Neoism, it's not a cult where once you're in you dare not leave. Neoism Now & Then! People find it interesting & stimulating for awhile & then move on to other things. Not all departures are fueled by acrimony, not all acrimony is irreversible. The last APT Fest in name in Montréal was APT 6 in early 1983. Monty Cantsin (Istvan Kantor) moved to NYC in the mid 1980s, the Neoist cohesion he generated in Montréal dissipated in his absence.

Nonetheless, Ultimatum I happened from May 1-5, 1985. It wasn't necessarily a Neoist Festival but Alan Lord organized it & Jean Luc Bonspiel & other Neoists participated. When I went to perform in Montréal on April 19, 1986, it was at the Bunker of La Société de Conservation du Présent, a Neoist affiliated group. Kiki & Zbigniew were in attendance, John Berndt came from Maine to participate in the gig. In 1987, Lord organized Ultimatum II & there was even more Neoist participation this time w/ Gordon W coming from Toronto & myself (t,ac) & John Berndt coming from BalTimOre. When I went to Montréal to perform in 1992 w/ my band "the Official, August 7th, 1992ev, Foufounes Electriques CosmoRobotic $350.00 Boxers" it was Jean Luc who arranged the gig at Foufounes. Once again, John Berndt was part of the gig. I also got to collaborate w/ Barnoz ("Neoist Chair Didaction": https://youtu.be/qYnpi3KF0Gc), another Neoist I hadn't had much interaction w/ prior to this.

Oddly, for me personally, my relations w/ Montréal Neoists soured somewhat when I was there to present a screening on September 16, 1995 at Casa Obscura. It was the time of the separatist referendum, French speaking people in the province of Quebec were voting about whether to form their own country. This was a tense time & hostilities against English-speaking people were high. I was staying w/ my friend Philth & he had no such problems but I remember seeing one French speaking friend who when I sd "Hello" to them instead of "Bonjour" turned away from me like I was a pariah.

I went to visit Napoleon at the bkstore where he worked & attempted to carry on a conversation w/ him in French. Mon Français est terrible so our conversation was stilted. When I asked him what he was doing & he told me that he had a magazine I wanted to get a copy of it & I asked him if it was in French. He replied saying something to the effect of "Why shouldn't it be?" as if I were implying that if it weren't in English I wdn't be interested. I was just curious. It was completely stupid. I invited Napoleon to have dinner w/ me but he didn't attend. At the same time, Boris was having personal troubles. Life was tense & the tension didn't necessarily have anything to do w/ Neoism.

Deseriis goes on to say that some "Neoists were too focused on their own work to see Neoism as anything other than a promotional vehicle for their individual artistic practices." (p 109) I second that (e)motion. As I've written on my webpage showing the cover of the "Neoism Now" bk ( http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/Book1986NeoismNow.html ): "When the next Neoist Festival, the Berlin APT 64 Festival, happened I was probably under the impression that the European take on Neoism was that it was just-another-Avant-Garde-movement that young artists could attach their name to to try to jump-start their Art World Career. I didn't get the impression that Neoism as a Cultural Conspiracy was being taken seriously.

Since Monty Cantsin (Istvan Kantor) Amen really is a dynamo of Neoist activation, wherever he goes does tend to have more Neoist activity than anywhere else. This is partially b/c for him it's always Neoism Now! time rather than Neoism Now & Then! time like it is for the rest of us. I, personally, have plenty of things going on in my life that aren't Neoist & that I don't want to be Neoist. I'm not a one-trick pony, I'm not even a 32-trick octopus.

Contrary to Deseriis, I wdn't say that Neoism has "withered after the 1980s" I'd just say that it's changed. Stewart published his The Assault on Culture in 1988 & that made Neoism considerably more high-profile (for better or for worse). Phÿcus ( https://phycus1.bandcamp.com/album/noise-master-one ) was a Canadian industrial / experimental band that existed from 1988 to 2000 that associated itself w/ Neoism. Home instigated discussion around the idea of an "Art Strike" proposed for 1990-1993. Florian Cramer created the "Seven by Nine Squares" website around the fall of 1994. This shifted the focus somewhat from APT Fests to the internet.

One of my favorite Neoist Festivals I ever attended was the XXXPanzio A Neoizmus?! Anti-Esemény / Neoista?! Puccs / Neoista?! Zajpiknik és Monty Cantsin? Kiképzôtábor one in Hungary in 1997. It was attended by Monty/Istvan, tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE, etta cetera , Gordon W. Zealot, Florian Cramer, Angela Idealism, Jubal Brown, Jada D'Aversa, Brian Damage & Bruce-Sex, Iona Georgescu (Ghera), Art Lover, Tadeusz Varon Less (Otto), Dora Attila, Livia Cases, & many more.. - people from at least 5 countries.

Right now I know a Monty Cantsin in Los Angeles (you can witness a movie featuring him called "Monty Cantsin Rides Again" on the Internet Archive here: https://archive.org/details/MontyCantsinRidesAgain ), Monty Canstin in Belarus, & Monte Con O Sin Safos in Richmond. 38 yrs after the proposal of the collective identity name it still continues to inspire & stimulate people long after I've largely lost interest in it.

There're at least 9 Monty Cantsins on Facebook (& variations thereon) & at least 10 Karen Eliots (& variations thereon). There're at least 5 Neoist groups on Facebook. Now, Facebook is hardly where I place my hopes for humanity but the statistics show signs of some sort of life. Neoism hasn't completely withered away even if people like myself are mostly Neoism Then! Instead of Neoism Now!

"Disgruntled by the antiactivist attitude and the lack of theoretical rigor of many Neoists, Home left the network before the Ponte Nossa festival, which he attended as an observer," - p 109

If Home makes any claim to being an "activist" that's sure news to me & it wd certainly be news to anarchists in England such as "John Connor" of Green Anarchist who's stated in an interview:

"Steward Home flooded London with his 'Green and Brown Anarchist' leaflet in mid-1994, arguing GA's supposed support for "Green death camps" because of Hunt's former involvement. He continued churning this crap out at least until 1998, deliberately trying to blur the distinction between 'ecofascists' (a Lyndon Larouche-coined term for those favouring authoritarian environmental measures, particularly re. population control) and 'common or garden' fascists (those committed to a fuhrerprinzip and so related supremacisms), as if we at GA - as anarchists, consistently antistatist and anti-fascist - were either. We were naively inclined to dismiss the first one or two leaflets as the sort of scandalous publicity-seeking initiated by the Surrealists and decidedly tired by the Situationists, who Home affected to ape in the hope his association with their techniques would discredit them, not him. After all, Home - a deliberately execrable writer, as if he could be any other kind - was seeking an 'in' to the early-1990s notoriety of Brit lit that followed Irving Welsh's Trainspotting.

"After that, we responded with a 'pot calls kettle black' editorial paragraph noting Home's association with National Front member Tony Wakeford and to date have so far had three different claims from Home as to when he disassociated himself from him as well as insubstantial, self-serving claims that Wakeford has left off fascism, each disproved by a subsequently discovered document. This sounded like someone with something to hide to us... When we collared Home's space cadet sidekick Fabian 'Fuckwit' Tompsett at one of their artsy do's at the Oval two years into this crap, he couldn't even define 'fascism', insisting it was "a matter for sociologists". This didn't stop them throwing similarly incoherent mud for another half-decade.

"By 1997, the 'who said what' of this manufactured scandal was so bewilderingly convoluted that people thought it all poor entertainment at best - with a few opportunistic lice like AK Press also seeing it as a bulwark against anarcho-primitivist supersession of their antique ideologies. Then Home and his clones - I won't call them Neoists as he did, following Neoist founder tentatively a convenience's denunciation of their attempt to discredit Neoism by appropriation - started to broaden their aim. Fuckwit issued a pamphlet denouncing 'anarchist saint' Stuart Christie, a veteran Black Flag editor who tried to assassinate Spain's generalissimo Franco, as a "fascist" for advocating anarchist militias. As typical with this crowd, Christie's distinction between classic anarchist militias in Spain and racist, Christian fundamentalist ones in the US was deliberately blurred. At the 1997 Anarchist Bookfair, when they prematurely hoped GA's editors would already be safely jailed and not there to answer back, Home and his clones issued Anarchist Integralism, a pamphlet claiming all anarchists as tainted by anti-Semitic "Bakuninism", although neither this nor 'integralism' were ever defined. Of course, the anarcho-Establishment sat there and meekly took it, not knowing the 'joke' (such as it was) was on them.

"Surrounded by a fan base of exceptional sycophancy and stupidity - typically college kids dressed up as skinheads, as if they think this fools anyone - Home is used to passing outrageous remarks that go over their heads and, I suspect, enjoys trying to worm his way round criticism if confronted over any of them. He's happy to use the Evolian slogan "Long live Death!" in one of his AK-published booklets, claiming it to be an anarchist Civil War slogan when challenged. It may well have been. Incidentally. Which I doubt is the reason Home used it. Similarly, we knew what integralism was, an irrational ultra-nationalist belief promulgated by the darling of the 'political soldier' far-Right as 'more extreme than the Nazis', Cornlieu Codreanu, fuhrer of the Romanian Iron Guard during World War 2. We knew what "Bakuninism" was too, an alternate term for so-called national anarchism, a far-Right attempt well established in Germany and Russia to appropriate anarchism, much as national Bolshevism was a fascist attempt to appropriate Stalinism in the run-up to World War 2." - https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/john-connor-two-decades-of-disobedience-a-retrospective-on-green-anarchist-s-first-twenty-years.html#toc5

In other words, there're people who wd consider Stewart himself to be an "antiactivist". But as Stewart sd: "Exposing the mechanisms of advertising is one of the easiest methods of disguising their use" wch cd be modified into "Accusing others of being antiactivist is the best way of disguising being one oneself." Additionally, I speculate that Stewart uses the slogan "Long Live Death!" b/c it's ironic & he probably finds it funny. That nothing is really something, isn't it?

ALSO, "Neoist founder tentatively a convenience's denunciation of their attempt to discredit Neoism by appropriation" is a bit off. Cantsin/Kantor is the founder of Neoism. He has credited me as a COfounder of Neoism, a credit I think I deserve given that I've been involved w/ Neoism since 1980 & have been very active in creating it in many ways. ALSOALSO, what I wrote to Green Anarchist in an e-mail they published in issue 60/61 (summer 2000) under the heading "Home No Neoist" wch wasn't my title for it (mine was: "Response to "Anarchist Integralism - A Study in Neoist Falsehood" & "False Flag - Again"") was:

"If Stewart & friends HAVE attacked Green Anarchists in the name of neoism, keep in mind the possibility that he'd do it partially to stir up shit AGAINST neoists, eh?"

but that's near the end of a somewhat long letter in wch much is sd that goes into a greater detail than the above deliberately brief excerpt does. Note that my sentence begins w/ "If" & has "the possibility" & "partially" in it. W/ that clarification, however, I want it known that I have far more sympathy for Connor's apparent position than I do for Home's - regardless of how 'clever' Home's smear campaign against Green Anarchist may appear to some.

"we can begin to analyze the ethos of mail art as emerging at the intersection of two elements: (1) the internal social contract that bound the mail art community and (2) the relationship between mail art and the art system. Both factors are historic in character inasmuch as correspondence art evolved from an intimate network involving a few dozen participants into the much larger Mail Art network, which generated a high volume of exchanges and thus a less personal relationship among correspondents." - p 115

& that's an important issue to me. People such as "Blaster" Al & myself tried to have personal correspondence w/ people. We weren't necessarily interested in submitting the same-old-same-old thing to every Mail Art show we knew of just so we cd get our name in the catalog. Instead, we were interested in having quality exchanges w/ people, often of a trickster bent. We used multiple identities so we cd catch people off-guard. EG: Blaster wd send me mail as "Ed Lefko", the "Ant Man" (see a relevant envelope here: http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/Blaster094.5.html ). & I wd send out mail using recycled material that gave the appearance of being from some 'official' group or another.

At one point, DJ @ FOMT in Northern Ireland started sending out "circulars" to the participants in the variously known 6-Fing Thing. He'd write a letter on economical airmail stationery & send it to the 1st person on the list. I forget the exact sequence but let's say he'd send the one page letter to Zack In Mexico, Zack might read it & add something to it & that wd be sent to Nunzio Mifune in San Antonio, maybe it went to Blaster after that. From there? Maybe to John M. Bennett & then to me. I'd add to & send it to Howard "False Kitty" Parker. Perhaps that was the end of the trail. Anyway, we all knew that we were reading the same letter, sharing the same news from DJ.

"In some cases, they even experimented with the postal network's protocols and trappings." (p 115) endnote 50, p 245: "One of the earliest Fluxus postal works was Ben Vautier's The Postman's Choice. Starting in 1965, it consisted of a blank postcard with two different addresses and stamps on each side of the card, with the final destination to be determined by the mailman."

Ha! I didn't know about Vautier's thing (or, if I did, I'd forgotten about it)! I, too, did something like that, probably staring in 1984. I created a "DOUBLE ADDRESSEE" post-card that gave similar options. I contributed 100 of them to an assembling known as "LEVEL 7" in 1984 as well as mailed them out myself. A sample can be seen here: https://www.facebook.com/1506700389639076/photos/a.1506718226303959.1073741828.1506700389639076/1512859472356501/?type=3&theater.

"In the 1970s, the mail art's ethos of inclusiveness began to collide with the art system. As the Mail Art network had grown too large to be ignored, galleries, museums, and art magazines developed an interest in the new art form. Thus, in the more or less conscious effort to create artificial scarcities around the massive production of mailed artifacts, some critics and curators tried to discriminate between good (i.e., valuable) mail art and bad (i.e., unmarketable) mail art. In 1973, FILE magazine launched a scathing attack on the proliferation of "quikkopy crap" and "junk mail" within the Mail Art network." - p 116

Ah.. Another territory rife w/ meaning for me. Deseriis's description of the creation of "artificial scarcities" is a strong insight into how the Art World works. When the motive for doing so is ultimately just capitalist market manipulation I'm against it. On the other hand, I want QUALITY interactions w/ other people, not "junk mail" & I have specific ideas about what qualifies as "junk mail". Junk mail is most commonly advertising sent to me that I have so little interest in that it goes straight into the trash. It wastes resources trying to sell me things I don't want. 2nd, junk mail in Mail Art is mail that's sent to me w/ a similar lack of concern for me as an individual human being.

The Mail Art I enjoyed receiving (& still receive from time-to-time) is Mail Art that's actually sent to me personally. That doesn't mean that the sender has to know me in advance, it just means that they have to take the time to think about what they're doing in relation to the intended recipient. For me, by the early 1990s I was getting entirely too much mail along the lines of "Dear Sir or Madam, Please send me info.." w/o any attempt to make their request for free stuff in any way interesting. In response to this, in the fall of 1991, I created a post-card to send to people like that to discourage them. The post-card has this passage:

"NO MORE WILL I WASTE MY TIME W/ YOU! If you can't even put the energy into making yourself interesting to me I'll just throw your mail away & (at "best") send you this post-card."

The problem was that then I cdn't bring myself to send it out to more than a few people b/c I cd usually find some 'redeeming' excuse for their uninterestingness such as shy & inexperienced youthfulness.

"And in 1984, Franklin Furnace's Mail Art Then and Now International Show broke the customary practice of previous mail art exhibitions to include and display all submissions." - p 116

Now, Franklin Furnace's censorship is despicable to me. Deseriis quotes an interesting exchange from a debate around this Furnace fiasco & I find the Furnace's position to be completely disingenuous pseudo-intellectual garbage. I won't even bother to quote from it here. I think it's best to just let the N-League deal w/ it: http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/Blaster099.html .

Instead, I'll tell 2 relevant stories:

In BalTimOre I was friends w/ a guy who was a revolutionary communist. Sometime, probably in the mid 1980s, he thought it wd be a good idea to have a Mail Art show around the theme of "Breaking the Chains" or something like that. He wasn't a Mail Artist & he had little or no knowledge of what the typical Mail Art ethos of inclusiveness was & little or no knowledge of how often people ignored MA show themes. I think it might've been G. X. Jupitter-Larsen who sent some bondage photos in - probably at least partially to spoof off of the theme. The communist censored the photos out of the show b/c, to his mind, they showed the oppression of women. This particular guy had very little experience w/ women & probably cdn't even imagine women desiring such things. I was infuriated by this censorship. Exhibiting the photos wdn't have had to mean that the curator supported the practice.

I participated in a Mail Art show to be held in the Statue of Liberty. As usual, the curator claimed that all works wd be shown. What are these people thinking?! Don't they realize that there are people out there who will submit things they'll find abhorrent?! I submitted a dildo, rigged to stand upright, w/ a small toy version of the Statue of Liberty glued to its tip. Written along its sides was some sort of political statement against US Military involvement in the Middle East, something about Liberty getting SHAFTED. It might've been the time of the Gulf War. The curator was furious & wrote back telling me that while he'd guaranteed that "all work would be shown" he didn't say where the work wd be shown & that he intended to show mine in the Men's Room. That was 'clever', ha ha, but I think it more likely that he didn't exhibit the work at all. The thing is, Art World people (like most people) lie routinely as part of business-as-usual - expecting fair play from them is naive.

"My wager is that the inability or unwillingness of the Neoist network to openly acknowledge this set of customary norms is the main reason why Monty Cantsin never became an "open pop star." In other words, the failure to acknowledge the existence of a shared ethics, and to ground a politics of the multiple-name use name in such ethics, may explain the decline of the Neoist Network and Monty Cantsin's limited impact on its contemporaries." - p 118

I find the above to be highly problematic. The "Neoist network" is not a single homogeneous being. As such, it isn't likely to acknowledge any "set of customary norms" w/o ceasing to be the "Neoist network". As for the notion of the "open pop star"? If a pop star is commonly defined as a well-known & popular entertainer, I, for one, never had the slightest desire to either be one myself or to be part of an "open" one. I don't know of anyone who used the Monty Cantsin name who expected to be a "pop star" as a result, "open" or not - w/ the possible exception of Monty Cantsin (Istvan Kantor) & he's the one who's come closest anyway - having had his picture on the front cover of a Canadian men's magazine recently, for example.

"Thus, whereas the Neoists never cared to understand how Monty Cantsin could have truly become a pop star, Ciani, Baroni, and friends explored how pop culture is manufactured by the media and the culture industry." - p 125

I'm confused. Are Ciani & Baroni pop stars? I don't know Ciani, maybe he is, but as far as I know Vittore isn't. Istvan's more of a pop star. & if Vittore were a pop star is he a Neoist Pop Star? After all, he's associated w/ Neoism. I don't think that understanding how pop stars are made by the media thru 'saturation bombing' is unique to Baroni or me or many others. After all, it's fairly obvious. You don't become a pop star if people don't know who you are & people are much more likely to know who you are if you're being promoted thru the most top-down media, the mass media. & the mass media is not going to promote anyone so heavily unless there's big money to be made or propaganda to be disseminated.

I don't think there's been a "failure to acknowledge the existence of a shared ethics" b/c I'm not so sure there is "a shared ethics". Some of us do bond over certain issues & we may have more in common than not but there're bound to be substantially different perceptions of what constitutes "ethics" between, say, a person privileged by inherited wealth & a person who's spent time in prison for committing what might be called a 'poor person's crimes' & Neoism encompasses both. I find most of what Stewart does to be unethical, I'm an anarchist, he's an anti-anarchist. Nonetheless, that doesn't necessarily make him not a Neoist. So what're our "shared ethics"?

As to whether the Neoist Network and Monty Cantsin have had "limited impact on its contemporaries"? It must not be TOO limited given that this bk exists & that Trevor Blake wrote about Monty Cantsin in oVo 20 JUVEN(a/i)LIA in 2012 (see my review here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13459014-ovo-20-juven-a-i-lia ) wch he later reprinted in his bk Confessions of a Failed Egoist (2014) (my review's here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21806128-confessions-of-a-failed-egoist ).

In fact Neoism still continues to attract people to this day. There are 136 new members to the Neoist Facebook group TODAY - apparently just b/c it was proposed that there be an e-APT, an Apartment Festival to be done thru videoconferencing. Tatianna Bazzichelli wrote about Neoism & Monty Cantsin in both Networking - The Net as Artwork (2006) & Networked Disruption (2013). Add to this the many other bks either written by Neoists or about Neoism & its "limited impact" becomes a matter of how one defines the scale. not of negligible impact.

I think that both w/ Neoism & the Open Pop Star the idea has never been to be juggernauts mowing down society but more a matter of having a quality personal impact thru international networking. Monty Cantsin might only be a "Pop Star" to Mail Artists - & that's just fine!

"As we have seen, Kantor's blood donations were meant to show that museums thrive off the blood of artists, so that Monty Cantsin's plasma would stand for the blood of every exploited and unrecognized artist. And yet, the paradoxical outcome of such provocations has been that Kantor has become a recognized performance artist in Canada, having received several grants from arts funding agencies, including the Telefilm Canada Award for Best Canadian Video (1998) and the Governor's General Award (2004)-the most prestigious Canadian award for achievement in the visual arts." - p 199

It seems to me that Cantsin/Kantor's receipt of money & awards from the art establishment in Canada & Germany is more in spite of his provocations than it is b/c of them. After all, when he splashed his blood "X" on the walls of MoMA in August of 1988 he had to go to trial &, eventually, moved back to Canada. After that, he may not've re-entered the US again until 24+ yrs later for the Blasterthon! in BalTimOre in 2013 b/c of the ensuing legal problems.

Nonetheless, he continued to donate his Gifts including one to the museum where he was eventually given the Governor General's Award. Since this museum had thrown him out originally when he'd given his Gift, when it was time for him to receive the Award it's my understanding that he was escorted into the bldg by guard to receive it & then escorted out again. He wasn't exactly given a red carpet welcome & I'm sure there were plenty of people who weren't happy w/ his having been the recipient.

The thing is Cantsin/Kantor is a workaholic. He obsessively promotes Neoism around the world, traveling frequently, always busy. His videos are technically excellent, imaginative, & confrontational. For me, it's a relief that there are places in the world where his work can be recognized for its qualities instead of the more usual neglect & suppression. Cantsin/Kantor has overcome obstacles, Canada's 'liberality' helps that happen but I'm sure he's got plenty of enemies there too.

"Whether Kantor is an interesting artist or someone who just craves media attention be lending a face, a body, and even a blood group to Monty Cantsin, he inextricably tied the open pop star to himself. Perhaps this contradiction was already inscribed in Kundzin's and Zack's original gift ("you are Monty Cantsin, you are the open pop star," the card mailed to Kantor read). But once this association was made in the public mind, it was extremely difficult for anyone who was not cognizant of Cantsin's originating milieu not to identify the alias with a specific individual." - p 119

The problem here is that this was written decades after the origin of all this. As such, the perception is informed by hindsight rather than a realistic understanding of what the conditions were like yr to yr. Whatever Zack's intentions were when he encouraged Istvan to assume the Monty Cantsin role there basically wasn't anyone else involved to invigorate the context. Istvan took on the project w/ extreme vigor & turned the vague idea into a strident reality.

When Cantsin/Kantor visited BalTimOre in December of 1980 & the 1st of the in-person interactions between my B-More friends & Cantsin as the Neoist representative happened, I told Cantsin/Kantor about our collective identity "David A. Bannister" & he signed a piece of paper to the effect of "I am David A. Bannister, Monty Cantsin". In other words, he did promote & understand the collective identity project.

However, not many other people understood it & no-one else pursued it w/ his intensity. It wasn't as if he was 'monopolizing' it, there simply wasn't that much interest outside of his own. As far as I 'know', no-one else was declared, or declared themselves, "Monty Cantsin" until March of 1982 at Des Refusés during APT 5, the 5th International Neoist Apartment Festival.

My lover/collaborator HannaH AvivA & I were naked at the space & shaving each other's hair off below the waist, after wch we painted multiple layers of latex on our legs wch we cd eventually peel off so that we cd each 'wear each other's skins'. During this action, Cantsin/Kantor set fire to some toy dinosaurs & conducted a ceremony in wch my blood was drawn by a nurse & I was dubbed "Monty Cantsin". It was during this ceremony that I defined Neoism as "A prefix & a suffix with nothing in between" as a way of saying that Neoism was an open context whose very name was little more than a set of brackets enclosing an open set.

However, it wasn't really until slightly before APT 8 in London that the Monty Cantsin name began to be taken more seriously as a group project. Of course, by this time, Kantor had invested far more energy into it than anyone else had done before & has done since so there was bound to be some conflict. On March 25, 1984, Peter Below (who had hosted the Würzburg Neoist Network's First European Training Camp 2 yrs earlier in June, 1982) mailed an open letter in wch he criticized Kantor by saying: "You put leadership attitudes in your behaviour, plus attributes of an ideology" "you put other people in charge of your self promotion. A real egomaniac project, as it looks to me." &, yes, many of us were in agreement w/ these observations. While Below didn't specifically mention the 'monopolizing' of the name "Monty Cantsin" this was the beginning of the 'public' discussion that led there.

Cantsin/Kantor had been doing some great things but, being human n'at, he cd also be a royal-pain-in-the-ass. So can I. So can most other Neoists, so can most other people. When APT 8 happened, Istvan & his girlfriend commandeered a bedrm for themselves, the rest of us foot-troops got to share a collective bedrm, a barracks as it were. This type of thing was typical, the egalitarianism only went so far.

Below eventually compiled a small bk of replies to his open letter. Pete Horobin, the co-organizer of APT 8, replied on March 31 (before APT 8 started); Vittore Baroni on April 9; David Zack on April 17; Mark Bloch on May 6; Reinhardt U. Sevöl (the person whose squatted house (probably turned Council house) had been used as the APT 8 HQ but he'd left for Paris & turned 'Anti-Neoist') replied on June 14; I replied on June 23 & then again w/ the Transparent SMILE proposal as Monty Cantsin on November 24; Pete replied again on September 17; & Monty Cantsin (Istvan Kantor) replied on November 22. Note that Stewart Home was not involved.

Pete's letter is 4pp long, I won't quote it all but any excerpt won't do it justice: "The problem seems to arise when there is a clash of egos. Not ideas. Although to all intents and purposes the two are tied. Sevöl could not bear the possibility of Monty Cantsin arriving in London and destroying what Sevöl had created for himself. Sevöl could not bear the thought of working for Monty Cantsin in order to assist that person destroying what Sevöl had created for himself. Sevöl could not stand by his ideas with any conviction. Therefore Sevöl could not put his ideas into the context of Neoism with any assurance. Trust. Faith. Commitment. Neoism is an open book. A blank book." [..] "Does Monty Cantsin control the writing of this book. Is neoism Monty Cantsin. Is Monty Cantsin neoism. Answer to all three. No. Will neoism change the world. No. Will neoism alter the world's perception. Perhaps."

Baroni replied: "I should say that I do not feel like being "used" by Monty when I produce a Neoist magazine just like I don't feel being used by Cavellini when I send him a self-historification hommage: of course I am very much aware that both Monty and Cavellini and so many others are just pursuing their own ego--game, but as far as it may be fun to play a little in that game, I just can't see nothing wrong in it."

My eventual Transparent SMILE proposal included this:

"recently, there have been many complaints from potential Monty Cantsin context users that the context has been overly monopolized by one person to the detriment of the concept that makes Monty Cantsin significant. it is my opinion, as Monty Cantsin, that this monopolistic situation is as much a product of the lack of use of the context by those complaining as it is a product of the overuse & abuse of it by by it's main user & spokesperson.

"therefore, as an attempt to counteract this imbalance i hereby propose an issue of SMILE magazine which will consist entirely of portraits of Monty Cantsin performing with White Colours on a transparent material so that the resulting overlay in SMILE will provide a composite portrait of Monty Cantsin & White Colours in keeping with their original concepts."

The full text, as noted above, can be read here: http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/SM1984.07.proposal.html . To Cantsin/Kantor's credit he did try to adapt to this changing situation & to the criticisms & eventually took the name "Amen" as a step out of the Monty Cantsin identity.

"TRAX 1085 Neoist Ghosts, printed and distributed in 150 copies, containing a copy of SMILE and an audiotape assembled by Baroni with various Neoist materials produced during the 1985 Ponte Nossa festival." - p 125

More info about this publication can be found here: http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/SM1985.06.Baroni.html . I was part of it, as were many other people who weren't at APT 9 so the audiotape wasn't "assembled by Baroni with various Neoist materials produced during the 1985 Ponte Nossa festival" but was published in connection w/ sd fest regardless.

We move on to Luther Blissett. "According to Baroni, the American mail artist" [Ray Johnson] ""used to organize happenings and 'clubs' for groups of people with the same name randomly picked up from the phone books." (p 130) There's a history of this w/ other people too: In 1977 my roommate Mike & I (birthname "Michael" aka "Mike") discussed joining a group called "Mikes of America". There's a website for this group: http://www.mikesofamerica.us/ .

An article in the Baltimore Sun from 1992 had this to say:

"Recognizing the burden and glory of being a 'Mike'

"March 04, 1992

"By Michael "Mike" Vitez

""Michael: One who is like God." -- Oxford English Dictionary

"This story is for Mikes only.

"We are the ultimate trend.

"We carry the most popular boy's name in America.

"But there is deep trouble in Mikeville: Our very popularity is our curse. Many of us feel ordinary, lost in a sea of Mikes. We have no identity. A million Mikes are worth but one Elvis.

"To borrow from some George down in Washington, this cannot stand. And I am doing my part to change it.

"The other day, I became an official member of Mikes of America -- which claims to be the largest name-based organization in the world, a support group with more than 20,000 member Mikes.

"I received a T-shirt and a framed certificate in the mail (alas, with glass broken). The package came from Mike D. Nelson, president and founder of Mikes of America, our visionary.

"We've got something here that we share, that the non-Mike population just doesn't understand," says Mr. Nelson, 43, who lives in Minneapolis and works for a small company that sells manufactured housing. "I have managed to strike a chord among Mikes everywhere. Mikes have felt lost. But that's OK. It's better than OK.

"Feel proud. This is the all-American name. And thank God that your parents didn't name you Fred!"" - http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1992-03-04/features/1992064235_1_mike-nelson-named-mike-mike-feel

Given that my given middle name is "Frederick" aka "Fred" I reckon I have the best of both worlds or something, eh? It's my understanding that "Michael" means "Who is like God?", in other words that it's a question rather than a godly comparison. I've also used the name "Who is like God?" before (see: http://youtu.be/Qk_UOY0c1bk ). Having "more than 20,000 member Mikes" probably does make it "the largest name-based organization in the world", it's certainly larger than Neoists-using-Monty-Cantsin. &, yes, there's a Facebook page ( https://www.facebook.com/Mikes-of-America-311937503598/ ) where it's listed as a Non-Profit. I can attest that being a "Mike" is non-profit.

Alan Berliner, the NYC-based filmmaker, made a movie called "The Sweetest Sound" in 2001 about people who have the same name as him wch one online review comments on thusly:

"I am so glad that I am not the only person in the world who has given so much thought to my own name. Alan Berliner proves to be even more obsessive than I am. After a number of "Egosurfs," (which is the word given to the act of looking up your own name on the internet,) Alan Berliner found twelve other owners of his name and flew them out to New York for dinner.

"Imagine having a party with a dozen of your namesakes! Introductions are easy, and you never forget anyone's name. However, it can make you really start to question your identity. In a room full of people named Alan Berliner, who's who? All of them turn out to be white, middle-class, and middle-aged men.

"The bulk of the film is put together with stock footage, man-on-the-street interviews (What does the name Alan bring to mind? One woman's response: Fat!) and old home movies. At the end of the film, Mr. Berliner encourages the viewers to write to him and tell them if they've recognized any of the faces in the stock footage as their own relatives.

"This is a pleasant and fun documentary that really makes you think. It is never boring for a minute, and is just as delightful as Sherman's March."

"There were, however, at least two key differences between the open pop star Monty Cantsin and the multiple-use name Luther Blissett: the first is the aforementioned distinction between the artistic and activist milieux from which the two aliases originated; the second lies in the different attitudes the two networks had toward pop culture and the media." - pp 131-132

I have no major problems w/ these 2 distinctions: of course, when there're 2 different sets of people involved there're bound to be different characteristics; I don't know how different the attitudes were "toward pop culture and the media" but I wd certainly give Luther Blissett credit for engineering more elaborate media pranks than any Neoists ever have. Still, the mere presence of the afore-mentioned "Luther Blissett Open Pop Star" CD (2000) shows at least a tip of the hat to Neoists.

That sd, when I conceived of "T he Poop & Pee Dog Copyright Violation Ceremony" in 1983 it was in full consciousness that if I got caught the media wd turn it into a big sensationalist scandal & I proceeded w/ that as a possible desirable outcome. I wasn't disappointed, the media were as stupid & shallow & dishonest as I expected. Having proven that once, I wasn't very interested in doing so again. Luther Blissett investigated & manipulated this at a much deeper level.

"As soon as it hit the bookstores, Q became an instant best seller, selling only in Italy more than two hundred thousand copies in fewer than three years. It was subsequently translated into twelve languages, including German, English, French, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Korean." - p 161

As for "pop culture"? Again, I cd care less. I don't think pop culture's worth the bother - either to participate in or to pay attn to. I take it for granted it's superficial & don't want to waste my time on it. Other people, obviously, feel differently. Luther Blissett's having managed to get published the reputedly best-selling novel Q is an accomplishment that I'm glad they pulled off but I get the impression that it's somewhat along the lines of an Umberto Eco novel so there probably was some paving of the commercial way for them there.

"the tale that the LBP was a preordained five-year plan was rejected as preposterous by many of its members. It must be noted, however, that aside from generating some internal polemics, this dissent did not take public form, probably because most of the LBP members had already moved to new activities and projects. Two notable exceptions were the year 2000 Luther Blissett-Open Pop Star, an experimental music CD assembled by the Roman Psychogeographical Association and Aliens in Roma, and the 2005 DVD Che fine ha fatto Luther Blissett? (Where did Luther Blissett end?), which contained dozens of audiovisual tributes to the multiple singularity." - p 160

"As we have seen, the Mail Art network and Neoism had for the most part a confrontational attitude toward the art world and the culture industry, which they sought to undermine by attacking bourgeois notions of identity, originality, and authorship." - p 132

That wd be fair enuf if it weren't so reductionist. But it IS entirely too reductionist. Mail Artists generally have a drive to communicate w/ people internationally. Communicating thru images & trading is easier than communicating thru languages that one doesn't speak.

Otherwise, it's much more "bourgeois" to exploit people who really do have "identity, originality, and authorship" than it is to actually have the vision & do the struggling & the work. What many Neoists were attempting to do, IMO, thru collectively using the identity of Monty Cantsin was to create something together w/o having to adhere to any dogma, including dogma about "identity, originality, and authorship" bourgeois or not.

I'd have to also disagree w/ Deseriis's endnote 20 on p 249 in wch he claims that "Home founded the Neoist Alliance in London to mark his distance from the international Neoist network." I think Stewart was just trying to refound Neoism w/ himself as the 'leader' & imitating the split between the Situationist International & the "Nashists" w/ himself as the new "Nash". Most of what Home does is a restaging of what's happened in previous cultural conflicts. People unaware of these conflicts might not understand the references & might take them as having substance outside of imitation.

John Shirley is an unexpectedly repeated figure that I'm now more interested in than ever. In the Monty Cantsin chapter it's stated that he was a part of the vibrant scene of Portland in the late 1970s that included "Blaster" Al, "David "Oz" Zack, Maris Kundzins, Tom Cassidy (aka Musicmaster), Kay Hocket (aka Rhoda Mappo)" (you can see her signing a John M. Bennett poem here: http://youtu.be/l7H8DJ0CYJE ) "Steve Minor, John Shirley, Billy Haddock" etc.. & in the Luther Blissett chapter thusly:

"Named after John Shirley's cyberpunk novel Transmaniacon, the Transmaniacs explored a theory and practice of subversion for a generation that had grown up with a saturated media environment and in times of accelerated capitalist recuperation." - p 136

"In John Shirley's proto-cyberpunk novel Transmaniacon, the hero Ben Rackey surfs a telematic network of sorts, taking on different names and identities with the goal of inciting revolt and destroying the invisible ionic barrier that separates the United States from the rest of the world." - endnote 21, p 249

"the Transmaniacs seek to "liberate the language, use it to produce events, and use the events to create a new language" by quickly moving between liberated "interzones" before capital can recuperate them or shut them down." - pp 136-137

I'm reminded of Ed Sanders's novel Shards of God (1970):


"Hi! Protestors. I am the

Freedomright Vale of Detention.

We hope that your stay with us

will be temporary. Be nice and

we promise not to chop up your

fucking face.


"Beneath the sign sat the camp bard, a blind poet from the Hudson Institute, who, fed intravenous food and kept awake by cocaine, perforce san twenty-four hours a day a continuous epic tale of the life and manners of the concentration camp. Standing in back of him were his musicians and in back of them were the six tiers of Fender amplifiers that sped the singing to the ears of everyone. The poet's epic was tapes and analyzed for slang and double- and triple-meaning language patterns, which were so complex that several computers were needed to keep track of the constantly changing language of the inmates." - pp 84-85

I've only read 2 of Shirley's bks but adding to the proofs of his connectedness I quote from his 1988 SF novel Kamus of Kadizhar - The Black Hole of Carcosa:

""How come the Darklord picked a couple of Earthmen for this?" But then, remembering "Bob"'s lighting-charged pipe, I realized my mistake. "You guys are wizards?"

""Is the pope Catholic?" "Bob" said, cheerfully.

""We're Earthmen," Stang said, "but not all Earthmen are really Earthmen." He spoke with a faint Texas accent. The cigarette clamped in his lips waggled with each word, spilling ashes into his lap. "Your Darklord, now, he picked us because we understand the nature of this particular kind of metaphysical infection. What you call the Outfit. We call it the Conspiracy." The car bounced as it went over a hump that marked the edge of an asphalt road. There were no asphalt roads on Ja-Lur. But we'd driven onto one, somehow, anyway. Up ahead was a cluster of harsh white lights. Stang went on, "The Conspiracy's mindset is perverting your planet. We've been chippin' away at the Con on Earth, in our own time." He glanced over his shoulder at me and added casually, "Besides being space travelers, we're time travelers, too. I forgot to tell you that."" - p 134

It's worth noting that Stang, aside from being the Sacred Scribe of the Church & Foundation of the SubGenius, was also present at the Party for People from the Future on March 9, 1982EV in BalTimOre at the Empire Salon.

But let's not overromanticize, shall we? In an endnote to the Monty Cantsin chapter it's stated that "The lack of financial resources surfaces in various of the period." [in Portland] "In an interview with the author (Baltimore, December 15, 2009), Ackerman said, "I cannot stress enough that all I was trying to do is keep Zack away from my fridge."" (p 240) In my aforementioned review of Amazing Letters I wrote:

"It was probably "Blaster" Al who told me that Zack wd show up at the home of a mail artist friend w/ wife & 5 kids in tow &.. STAY THERE. He probably also told me the story of Zack going to visit "The House of Candles", the home of another mail artist, the house being so-called b/c the electricity had been turned off for non-payment. According to the story, Zack's unwilling host cdn't get rid of him until he resorted to chasing him away at gunpoint. Wd you want Zack as a house guest? Probably not.

"In mail artist Mark Bloch's article re Zack in this bk, he writes:

"""Your loss is my gain," said Al Ackerman, then of San Antonio, Texas, when it was confirmed that Zack was on his way from his house to visit me in New York [..] At the time I wasn't sure what Blaster meant, but it was clear when Zack got on an Amtrak train to Rhinebeck, NY, a month later. I knew all too well that Judith Conaway's loss was my gain as I gleefully waved goodbye"."

Now, this is more than a little the pot calling the kettle black insofar as for at least 20 yrs straight "Blaster" not only never pd rent at the places where he couch-surfed but even charged people for things that he did while he was there. Thus, he stayed at the Shattered Wig house for free & charged its occupants $50 a pop to do paintings on their jackets. He 'worked' for Normal's, a used bkstore that I cofounded, & got us to buy copies of publications of his work that other people pd to put out & then sold the copies that we pd for to other people. Thus, Normal's got to pay for them & "Blaster" got to sell them w/o any money for Normal's. It was what I called "Blaster" economics.

Did anyone resent this or dislike him for it?! Some of us did a tad but in the long run "Blaster" was just too damned charming & too good of a writer & too funny for us to not want him around. It's amazing that he had the gall, but if "Blaster"'d had his gall bladder removed his head wd've morphed into one & he still wd've been charming. "Blaster" was complicated, he adamantly only published in small press form even though I think all of us were convinced that he cd've published w/ bigger publishers that cd've actually given him money, thusly ensuring poverty from what he spent most of his time doing. Then he relied on financial support from people like the owners of Normal's some of whom were working just as hard at their own projects but also bringing home the bacon. I quickly realized that the only time "Blaster" visited me in my unheated warehouse in a dangerous area was when there was free food involved. (See http://youtu.be/rpYh80gWvpw ) What can I say? I loved the guy, he was giving to the community on his own terms & taking from us on his own terms.

"If Theodor Adorno and Guy Debord had read mass culture and the spectacle as industrial processes engineered from above to enforce and reinforce capitalist domination, the LBP preferred to tap into what Ernst Bloch had described as the "Unfulfilled utopian potential" of mainstream narratives to turn them into open, rewritable, and participatory myths." - p 134

I both agree & disagree w/ this. I think that the ""[u]nfulfilled utopian potential" of mainstream narratives" are unfulfilled precisely b/c they're so spectacular that they're too detached from any possibility of existence outside of fantasy. Nonetheless, I like Anonymous's use of the Guy Fawkes mask taken from the popular movie (& presumably popular graphic novel by Alan Moore that it's based on) "V for Vendetta". Even if Warner Brothers gets a royalty every time someone buys one of the masks I still like them b/c I think that their use is a rare example of a Hollywood fantasy being enacted in 'real life' (albeit still at a less spectacular level), it's something that bridges the gap (a little) between the "unfulfilled utopian potential" of the popular fantasy & actual activism. People are moved by the movies, now it's time to make them moved in real life. However, I also agree w/ Florian Cramer's comment in a recent interview w/ Chiara Moioli:

"I do find it problematic that the references of imageboard culture and the Anonymous movement purely come from the culture industry (i.e. Hollywood, commercial manga/anime) -- they are, sometimes, very mainstream and could be more adventurous."

Back to Luther Blissett: "On May 27, 1994, Paccosi simulates a self-gutting in a central street of Bologna by pretending to have spasmodic convulsions and extracting a long veil intestine from underneath his shirt. The performance, which is terminated by the police, is meant "to present capitalist society with an anguishing image of itself."" (p 138)

That seems interesting but it's not clear to me how the public was going to put the intended spin on it. I think of vaguely remembered performance stories about Reinhardt U. Sevöl when he lived in Montréal in the late 1970s &/or 1980. As I recall, Reinhardt waited at a bus stop & a video was shot from a nearby house thru the window of someone inside the house aiming a (toy?) gun at him & 'shooting' him at wch point he fell down as if shot. Again, as I vaguely recall, bystanders who were unaware that the video was being shot, came to his aid. I'm fairly sure I've seen that video.

The next story may be apocryphal: Reinhardt pretends in public to have a seizure or some such, is picked up by an ambulance & taken to an emergency room where he then gets up & runs away saying it was just a performance.

A minor sidenote here that may be of interest if there's a 2nd edition of this bk (wch I hope there is!) is that in endnote 43 on p 252 the Situationist International Anthology's editorial credit has a typo: "Ben Knabb" shd be "Ken Knabb".

endnote 50, p 252: "A collection of essay by Hakim Bey, some of which were authentic and some of which were apocryphal, the book A Ruota Libera (Roma: Castelvecchi, 1996) sold two-thirds of its first run in two months, after receiving positive reviews by leftist newspapers such as Il Manifesto and Liberazuine, and after the Shake editorial collective, which had published T.A.Z. in italy, attacked Castelvecchi for copyrighting the text. When Luther Blissett claimed to be the real author of the apocryphal, Castelvecchi withdrew the text from the bookstores."

I remember having a correspondence w/ one of the Luther Blissetts at the time about this fake Hakim Bey project or, perhaps, another one. As I recall, I was informed that Blissett wanted to publish a fake Bey bk & wanted to know if I thought Bob Black wd be a good person to write it. I informed Blissett that Black's an excellent writer but that his motive for writing such a bk wd be mostly malicious & competitive & that I wdn't support such maliciousness b/c I know Bey as well as Black & find Bey to be a much nicer person &, therefore, undeserving of such treatment.

Furthermore, I remember being told by someone that a fake Bey bk had been made using Stalin quotes. As I understood it at the time, the idea was that Blissett wanted to show that quotes coming from a source who wd've usually been found unacceptable was then demonstrated to be uncritically accepted when packaged in a newer 'hipper' context by being attributed to Bey. Karen Eliot, in "Philosopher's Union Member's Mouthpiece #11" (1988) did a similar thing by presenting all quotes from Hitler that he agreed w/ on such subjects as being vegetarian as if they were Karen's own philosophy. Thus, by recontextualizing Hitler, the idea was to show how easily people cd agree w/ someone that they wd ordinarily find extremely repulsive just by careful editing & recontextualization.

"The argument that links the excessive and immeasurable character of living labor to the request of a citizen income detached from productivity is clearly articulated in Luther Blissett's Declaration of Rights, a manifesto written by the Roman LBP in 1995:

"The industry of the integrated spectacle and immaterial command owes me money. I will not come to terms with it until I have what is owed ro me. For all the times I appeared on TV, films, and on the radio as a casual passerby or as an element of the landscape, and my image has not been compensated . . . for all the words or expressions of high communicative impact I have coined in peripheral cafes, squares, street corners, and social centers that became powerful advertising jingles . . . without seeing a dime; for all the times my name and my personal data have been put to work for free by statistics for adjusting the demand, refining marketing strategies, increasing the productivity of firms to which I could not be more indifferent; for all the advertising I continuously make by wearing branded T-shirts, backpacks, socks, jackets, bathing suits, towels, without my body being remunerated as a commercial billboard; for all this and much more, the industry of the integrated spectacle owes me money!" - pp 147-148

'You think the world owes you a living?' is a common enuf expression, at least in the US &, of course, it's meant disparagingly. But the opening sentence of the above Declaration of Rights deserves to be examined further: ""The industry of the integrated spectacle and immaterial command owes me money.["]" There are Americans of African descent who agitate for reparations for all the wealth they earned but were cheated out of by the slavery of their ancestors. I think that's sensible enuf but I prefer to take it a bit further, I'd like to see the descendants of the victims of the Inquisition be recompensed. &, obviously, the idea can be taken further than that. Consider this quote from Mark Twain's The Innocents Abroad (1867-1869):

"As far as I can see, Italy, for fifteen hundred years, has turned all her energies, all her finances, and all her industry to the building up of a vast array of wonderful church edifices, and starving half her citizens to accomplish it. She is today one vast museum of magnificence and misery. All the churches in an ordinary American city put together could hardly buy the jeweled frippery in one of her hundred cathedrals. And for every beggar in America, Italy can show a hundred-and rags and vermin to match. It is the wretchedest, princeliest land on earth.

"Look at the grand Duomo of Florence-a vast pile that has been sapping the purses of her citizens for five hundred years, and is not nearly finished yet. Like all other men, I fell down and worshipped it, but when the filthy beggars swarmed around me the contrast was too striking, too suggestive, and I said, "Oh, sons of classic Italy, is the spirit of enterprise, of self-reliance, of nobel endeavor, utterly dead within ye? Curse your indolent worthlessness, why don't you rob your church?"" - p145 of The Unabridged Mark Twain (Running Press, 1976)

Isn't that the "industry of the integrated spectacle and immaterial command" & don't they owe Luther Blissett money?! But Luther Blissett takes the critique even further, they may even mean it flippantly but there's still something there worth thinking about: "all the advertising I continuously make by wearing branded T-shirts, backpacks, socks, jackets, bathing suits, towels, without my body being remunerated as a commercial billboard".

I met the author of this bk in Barcelona in April, 2004 at the "Influencers" festival at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB). I was part of a group of participants. The theme theoretically uniting us was "Culture Jamming & Hactivism".

One of the groups presenting was "guerrigllamarketing" from Italy. They were selling t-shirts that say "Spazio Disponibile" on the front. That's "Available Space" to you English speakers. Their commentary was on the way people BUY clothes that then turn them into free advertisers for the brand of clothing or something else. Imagine wearing a "Hard Rock Cafe" shirt: people buy them to show that they've been to the Hard Rock Cafe but wearing them then makes the wearer an advertisement for people that've already made money off of them. SUCKER!

I was delighted with the t-shirt but pointed out that if I bought one I'd just be paying to advertise Guerrilla Marketing, wch I had no intention of doing. SO, they gave me one (Thank You). Since then, I've made a movie called "North Deface" that features the shirt. My notes on YouTube about this movie are as follows:

"( http://youtu.be/r8Dre9tTEyE ) The direction this society is heading in is one in wch everyone is manipulated into paying to be advertisements for what they buy. Clothing in particular has had interesting fabric designs gradually replaced by logos only. I saw a man recently wearing a shirt w/ a huge advertisement on it & no other design whatsoever. Even resistance to this is being made harder & harder by having the logos so well-built into the clothing that they're very difficult to remove w/o using industrial strength tools. Capitalism is heading more & more toward making it so that people don't even own what they spend money on. Movies are streamed, not bought & owned in hard-copy. Will there come a day when covering over or removing the logos from clothing will be a crime in violation of one's clothing rental contract? I even distrust the recent prominence of the concept of "hoarding". It strikes me as greenwashing that's meant to delude people into thinking that if they just put all their files at a remote location that they somehow, magically, don't take up space or use physical resources, that they're 'in a cloud'. Not so, they're simply somewhere else other than in their home where someone else who might not be entirely friendly has easier access to them. - January 28, 2013 notes from tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE

"Tags: anti-capitalism"

Whenever strong-willed people congregate for shared purposes there's bound to be some strife about how to do what. Luther Blissett was not w/o its internal conflict:

""I distinctly remember that at a certain point the Bolognese 'Cental Committe' [of the LBP] exerted strong pressures on us to unveil the hoax," says Fango, a former member of the Viterbese LBP."


"As soon as the Viterbese complied, albeit reluctantly, with the request, the Bolgnese provided them with the opportunity of unveiling their hoax on RAI 1. But if the outcome of this deal was positive for the Bolognese LBP-in that it functioned as a public reminder that the hysteria surrounding the Satanic sects was often baseless and engineered by the press-the Viterbese were not equally satisfied. "In actual fact, we had not set a deadline for our campaign," says Algernon. "We were fascinated with a Borges-like idea of deferring falsification to the infinite, without necessarily revealing the hoax. In this respect our group was a mad splinter [scheggia impazzita] of the LBP, which operated in complete autonomy, and eventually had to change its original plans because it came under pressure to do so."

"Even though Algernon and Fango's reference to the Bolognese "Central Committee" is undoubtedly tongue in cheek, their account hints at the existence of a hierarchy within the LBP." - pp 156-157

I'm grateful to Deseriis for making these internal struggles more public. These struggles seem to've been considerably less vicious than some of Neoism's internal ones - wch I think is much to LBP's credit. Then again, I'm sure there's much I'm not privy to. Miriam Tola, a member of the Rome LBP talks about an interview she gave in 1995 when she was 21 to a feminist magazine about the LBP & the internal criticisms of it that happened subsequently:

"I think it reflected a general tendency, internal to our group as well as the Bolognese, to argue over the political appropriateness of Blissett's interventions, this is, discussing what Blissett should or should not do, say or not say. For my girlfriends and I this debate was actually quite useful because it led us to discuss how identity and subjectivity are embodied in male or female bodies. Soon after the Roman LBP disbanded we decided to found, along with other women who had not participated in Luther Blissett, a cyberfeminist group called Orma Nomade." - p 156

Many things strike me positively about Tola's statement among them that she took the position that "this debate was actually quite useful" & mentions "how identity and subjectivity are embodied in male or female bodies" - not just one or the other. Furthermore, rather than lose momentum just b/c the Roman LBP disbanded, she went on to cofound "a cyberfeminist group called Orma Nomade."

I decided to look for more about Orma Nomade online. My searches weren't very fruitful so I decided to try Miriam Tola instead. Bingo! In 2015-2016 she's teaching at the same university as Deseriis:

"Miriam Tola joins Northeastern's WGSS" [Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies] "program for the 2015-2016 academic year as a visiting scholar. Miriam is completing her PhD in Women's and Gender Studies from Rutgers University, and her writing is already published or scheduled to appear in journals such as Theory & Event, Hypatia, and Teoria. Previously, she has worked as a journalist, film programmer, and documentary producer in both Italy and the United States and has also worked as a lecturer for the Cinema Studies program at Northeastern.

"She became interested in WGSS after being a part of feminist collectives while in Rome, where they worked on various issues including women's reproductive labor and sex work. She was inspired after discovering feminist theory through Donna Haraway's Cyborg Manifesto, finding the integration of Marxist feminism, science studies, and speculative fiction fascinating.

"Currently, Miriam's research focuses on the concept of the common, which she argues has been revitalized by recent social movements such as Occupy and climate justice groups. She explores the intersection of anthropocentrism with hierarchies of gender and race in political philosophies of the common. She aims to disrupt the "binary of nature and culture" and bring forth the tangible practices that will lead to political action." - http://www.northeastern.edu/cssh/wgss/spotlight/miriam-tola/

Northeastern must be quite the happening place right now.

"the LBP struggled to project a meaningful, if not entirely coherent, image of Luther Blissett so as to avoid, in Tola's words, a "weak postmodern" reading of it. As we saw in the previous chapter, the Neoists emphasized that the "great confusion" and "radical play" were constitutive to Monty Cantsin, who had to fight against itself as much as against the culture industry. But because Luther Blissett was mostly a political project, and its large participatory base exposed it to the rick of being appropriated fro contradictory purposes, some interventions were reframed within a unifying narrative-namely, Blissett as the folk hero of immaterial workers-which tamed the virtuality and schizo-tendency of the improper name." - p 157

I find this fascinating, Deseriis does an excellent job of articulating fine points. However, call me old-fashioned, but, in the long run, I prefer the Great Confusion b/c, as stated earlier in this review, "I don't think any system works for everybody." Furthermore, I've always preferred a strategy of introspective critique that produces self-deprecating humor b/c I think it undermines the lust for power that's too typically 'alpha male' for my political liking. Now might be a good time to quote an entire relevant text from "Blaster" Al Ackerman:

"A Luther Blissett Activity

"1.) Pick out a single snowflake to watch and follow it urgently with your eyes until it hits the ground.

"2.) Do this again.

"3.) Do this 27,000 times.

"4.) Pull a small pen knife and menace passers-by.

"5.) Challenge them to tell if you are ghost or human.

"6.) Make up a little chant about Dancing Your Animal and whisper it on the street and in theaters.

"7.) Notice how small and cold and like procelain your hand seems beside the slashed seat cushions.

"8.) Look inward and see what can be done about these great dark black splashes that go unexplained in the snowy barnyard of your soul.

"9.) Whip it." - p 19, CORN&SMOKE

Let us take a brief moment to pause here.

"The younger generation of the Bolognese LBP, which authored the Darko Maver's swindle, founded 0100101110101101.ORG" (p 158) who then created the afore-mentioned 2004 Influencers festival that they included me in.

"The seppuku" [public announcement of the ending of the LBP] "and the choice of the four Blissetts to unveil their birth names-a choice that, according to the forr, was dictated by the fact that some journalists had already discovered their legal identities-drew internal as well as public criticism. In a long essay published by the magazine Invarianti, Leonardo Lippolis accused the entire LBP of being nothing more than a launch pad for unscrupulous artists and writers who ended up occupying a golden seat in the Italian culture industry". - p 158

Whew! While I'm enthusiastic about the LBP & happy to've ever been a fellow traveler, I have to wonder whether Lippolis's accusation doesn't partially hold true. Note that I say "partially" b/c I think that the LBP's political acumen is too strong to be dismissed as purely self-serving.

Why I'm even slightly sympathetic to Lippolis is b/c of my experience at the post-LBP Influencers festival. To quote at length from my description from it on my Mere Outline site:

"To make a long story 'short': I was excited about this festival. The person who I was interacting w/ in connection w/ the festival was therefore inundated w/ emails about what I wanted to do. I developed 3 pieces especially in Spanish for this. Translators were to be part of "influencers" - (v)audience members cd wear headphones that provided English-to-Spanish live translation & Spanish-to-English live translation. So far so good. I explained that my text wd be too fast for a translator & therefore provided some text to be given to the translator in advance so that s/he'd be prepared & wd have something to read from. By the time I got to Barcelona, the text had never made it to the translator. Sure enuf, when it came time, the translator sd something to the effect of: "I can't translate this, it's too complicated & fast - I shd've had a text to read from." Right.

"A soundcheck was needed for myself & my coperformer of the nite. When, by a miracle of persistance, we actually got some miniscule cooperation from the tech staff at the museum, I got them to provide me w/ a cord & then? they disappeared. I acted as the soundman for my coperformer's soundcheck. Oh well. I mean, we only flew several thousand miles to get there - I can see why the sound crew cdn't be bothered.

"Most of the presentations were just laptop lectures - sound byte presentations. Even though their content was politically radical, the form was like a business presentation. One fellow's work, wch I really do very much like, was recently published in a skater's magazine (in full color) surrounded by ads. Once upon a time that wd've been immediately recognized as cooptation. Oh well.

"I had an hr & a half to perform. Instead of short samples, I screened full pieces. One of them was the complete 16 minute "Balling Tim Ore Is Best" - the fake peep show movie that I comade w/ Dick Hertz under the name of Tim Ore. It has raw lo-res sex in it. The somewhat large audience started leaving in droves. I'm sure my coperformer, scheduled to start after me, was nervous about whether anyone wd be left.

"An hr & 10 minutes into my presentation, when I'd finally reached a part that I'd made especially for the festival (something w/ exacting Spanish subtitles), "Eva" (named partially after Eva Peron), one of the fest's co-organizers, asked me to stop - saying I'd gone over my limit. In fact, I still had 20 minutes to go. They didn't want to lose their audience. I was disgusted. I sped up part of it.

"In the end, this whole festival was just another European art world thing: "hactivism" is just a trend to jump on the bandwagon of - as long as there's money & glamour to be had. To say that I was the most hated presenter in the fest wd be an understatement. Afterwards, I was interviewed by a Spanish tv arts program person. I told her that I do what I do instead of killing people.

"There was alotof press for the "influencers". It was 'hip'. I was generally (or entirely?) left out of this press. As the woman that I was most attracted to in Barcelona (I hope you know who you are) explained: they didn't know what to do w/ me. Everyone else fit into a simple brain-dead category - such as "media activist" or "prankster". I was somebody who cdn't be reduced to whatever the latest simpleton-speak was. Is making a fake peep-show movie & then smuggling it into a real peep-show "media activism"? Or is it just PERVERTED? As I've been saying to more or less deaf ears for the last 40 yrs, if being called an artist means being reduced to palatable imbecility I'll opt for being a perverted criminal, no-thank-you-very-much.

"Did I make any friends at this festival? Nope. Afterwards, I rc'vd bulk emails from Reverend Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping (who was also a participant) asking for money. Uh, yeah, dude, instead of shopping at the mall, I'll shop for Reverend Billy products. My experiences w/ the other folks weren't necessarily much better." - http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/MereOutline2004.html

Believe it or not, that's my polite description. My feeling was that I was rc'vd as the 'old weirdo who's never going to make it in the Art World so who gives a fuck about such a loser'. Nonetheless, HEY!, they pd for me to fly to Barcelona & put me up in a Youth Hostel, & pd me a small honorarium. I'm grateful! The point is that my ambitions seemed to be quite different - but Deseriis & I are more on the same page than I had a chance to learn at the time. People interested in video of my Influencers participation (somewhat incomplete as I recall) can find the Vimeo links on my Vimeo index: http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/Vimeo.html .

By the way, I don't dislike Reverend Billy. I was touched when he told me that he'd been supporting himself as a waiter before he started this schtick & that it had enabled him to finally support himself from what he liked. I wish him the best.

"This mythmaking strategy was especially pursued by the Bolognese LBP and one of its offshoots, the collective of historic novelists Wu Ming-a Chinese expression that translates as "no name" or "unknown."" - p 148

"The Wu Ming Foundation website (http://www.wumingfoundation.com/) includes a list of complete publications as well as the possibility of downloading all of Wu Ming's books for free." - endnote 107, p 258

Coincidentally w/ my reading this bk, I watched Zhang Yimou's 2003 martial arts movie House of the Flying Daggers. Wu Ming = No Name but in this movie the art director is credited as "Wu Ming" a person listed online as having been connected to 4 additional movies as art director, carpenter, art assistant, & illustrator. I wonder what the story is there? The earliest credit to Wu Ming I found online in connection w/ these movies was for The Warrior (2001).

Then, Improper Names moves on to "ANONYMOUS, THE TRANSDUCER". I probably 1st became aware of the incarnation of Anonymous whose history is detailed here when Florian Cramer visited me in Pittsburgh in 2003 or 2012. I found it very exciting & promising. I still do. Anonymous's intervention in the case of the Ferguson murder of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson in 2014 was a highly welcome incident of hactivism of the non-Art World type. White cops killing black men is so nauseatingly common in the US & so unprosecuted that Anonymous's outing of any White Supremacist connections to the police was a more-than-welcome reality check that your average American is still in denial of. I guess that makes me a 'moralfag' in hacker terms but I don't really think of it that way.

"I" [..] "suggest that Anonymous expresses the convergence of a technological drive toward indetermination with the human belief that open technologies are conducive to a freer society." - p 165

"I will show how Anonymous has undergone at least three transition phases since its inception around 2005." - p 166

Deseriis's overview is restricted to Anonymous-as-it-is-currently-known. As such, he doesn't get into anonymous's long history before Anonymous. When was the idea of "anonymous' 1st introduced? That may be as significant as the introduction of "zero" as a mathematical paradigm shift. According to the ONLINE ETYMOLOGY DICTIONARY: "c. 1600, from Late Latin anonymus, from Greek anonymos "without a name," from an- "without"" [..] "+ onyma, Æolic dialectal form of onoma "name"" ( http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=anonymous ) Given that "anonymous" is practically the same word as the Latin "anonymus" & the Greek "anonymos" why not take the etymology back further? Was there a time when there was no word for a person w/o a name?! That wd be astounding.

Even tho the Anonymous mvmt of today is stated to've begun in 2003, there was definitely an anonymous mvmt of sorts prior to that. In 1997, there was even an "Anonymous Family Reunion" - a movie from wch can be witnessed here: https://youtu.be/Igk75JaCTPw . There's also a bk that accompanies hard-copies of the movie that details some of the paranoia & ideological strife that accompanied the planning of the AFR. Even tho the bk/VHS was only made in an edition of 100, many or most of them are still sitting in a closet to this day so we're not talking Q here. Heck'o'goshen, there's even a 2011 political thriller about Shakespeare called Anonymous. That sd, I'm almost completely ignorant of the genesis of the Anonymous that Deseriis details & I'm very thankful for his history:

"The alias of the then twenty-one-year-old Christopher Poole, moot owned its notoriety to the Internet. More precisely, he had been catapulted to stardom by 4chan.org, an addictive Internet forum he had himself launched from his New York apartment in 2003. Thanks to a simple interface and the lack of registration, 4chan has attracted in a few years millions of users, who exchange images and short texts on subjects ranging from Japanese anime to fashion, weapons, animals, music, toys, porn, and video games." - pp 166-167

"Auerbach sees 4chan's "economies of offense, suspicion, and unreality" as the engine of an emerging A-culture, which stands at odds with the reputation economy of the Web 2.0. A-culture, argues Auerbach, is offensive, cynical, and detached from reality because those who make it are not bound to any particular identity. At the same time,

"because the community is so autonomous from the real world, there is great opportunity to continually redefine one's role in it and even redefine the nature of the community itself. A-culture is a space for playing with unrestricted notions of identity and affiliation and for the establishment of a private set of in-jokes and references that come to constitute a collective memory." - p 172

To some, this might be a utopia - esp keeping in mind what my friend the prison activist, etta cetera, says: "You aren't the worst thing you do." The more locked in people are to a particular identity, the less rm for maneuvering out of mistakes.

"In other cases, /b/'s obsessions are duly annotated and turned into articles that are posted to satirical wikis such as Encyclopedia Dramatica (ED). Such transcription, however, is not without consequence, as ED stabilizes and therefor endows with an aura of legitimacy what would otherwise quickly fall into oblivion. While ED's layout and user-generated content resemble on a superficial level those of Wikipedia, the outcome is its polar opposite. In fact, ED has been aptly described as "Wikipedia's evil twin" for its "seemingly endless supply of twisted, shocking views on just about every major human tragedy in history." Yet despite its seething satire and crude imagery, ED does not lack guidelines. But if Wikipedia contains the contributors' subjectivity by founding its editorial process on rationalist principles such as neutral point of view, verifiability, and no original research, ED's predilection for lulzy stories and Internet drama exalts on the contrary the contributors' quirkiness, irreverence, and cruelty-all qualities that besides being quintessentially subjective inevitably yield highly contested narratives." - p 172

I've heard about ED many times, I've heard that it's very sensationalist, but I've never looked at it. Maybe I shd. I like Wikipedia but I think its 'rationalism' can probably use a good dose of ED's irreverance to counterbalance it. NO encyclopedia is 'neutral' despite any pretenses to the contrary. Wikipedia's "verifiability" & rejection of "original research" seems to privilege established sources of 'knowledge' w/o questioning their ultimate validity. I don't trust the Wikigardeners. Take, eg, this quote from the Wikipedia entry on Neoism:

"John Berndt was credited by Ackerman as having given Neoism the name "Spanish Art," circa 1983" - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoism

Does it take "original research" to discover that Berndt was 15 in 1983 & not very likely to've done that then? Not much, b/c John has a Wikipedia entry that accurately gives his birth yr as 1967 (he was born in Oct &, therefore, was 15 thruout most of that yr). "Spanish Art", by the by, was an in-joke name for Mail Art, not Neoism. John was unaware of Neoism & Mail Art in 1983. This in-joke didn't start until the mid to late 1990s & never spread much beyond 3 or 4 people. Therefore, its presence on Wikipedia gives you an idea of what the Wikigardeners accept as reliable sources.

endnote 24, p 262: "Poole and other administrators of 4chan have handed over some users' IP numbers to law enforcement agencies in a number of circumstances. This policy is know to 4chan users, who are generally aware that they should have no expectation of privacy for posts that are connected to illegal behaviors."

"4chan has been described as a "place to be wrong" and "the id of the Internet."" - p 174

Nonetheless, it's not a place to be 'too wrong' or yr IP address might be turned over to the law. Looking up "id" online brings up as its 1st entries Wikipedia ones. I often look for secondary entries, they're often not better than Wikipedia's but at least they break the monotonous monopoly a little.

"The id is the primitive and instinctive component of personality. It consists of all the inherited (i.e. biological) components of personality, including the sex (life) instinct - Eros (which contains the libido), and the aggressive (death) instinct - Thanatos." - http://www.simplypsychology.org/psyche.html

Indeed, it sounds like the lulzy end of the picture as described by Deseriis. I used the name "id ntity" when I was in my 20s, shd I change it to "superego ntity" now? Somehow, it doesn't work. "according to Julian Dibbel, Jonah Peretti has added that if this is the case, "then Google is kind of like the ego, and Facebook the superego." See Dibell, "Radical Opacity."" (endnote 28, p 262)

"As soon as Anonymous became a "we," it began to be used in conjunction with sudden attacks against specific individuals and organizations. Especially in the period 2005-8, these online "raids" do not seem to be inspired by anything but the personal enjoyment of their perpetrators. Beginning in 2008, however, a political wing of Anonymous emerges. First through a series of coordinated actions against the Church of Scientology, and then against governments and corporations that censor and restrict access to information and information technology. Anonymous becomes an increasingly organized and global political movement." - p 177

& BRAVO! to this I say! But, then, I'm an 'ethicshag' (I prefer the gay slang of "hag" as a suffix to "fag") of a Criminally Sane bent. Deseriis provides examples of the 2 types of actions of Anonymous:

"In December 2006, Anonymous began flooding with prank phone calls the radio show of white supremacist and Holocaust denier Hal Turner and took his website offline with a distributed-denial-of-servcie attack (DDoS), a network attack that consists in jamming a server with an excessive number of bogus requests." - p 178

"The attack on the Epilepsy Foundation website in March 2008 also seemed characterized by a basic lack of empathy for human suffering. In this case, hackers purportedly associated with Anonymous inserted flashing animations in a support message board for people affected by epilepsy. At least one forum visitor later claimed to have experienced a seizure.

"Although the identity of the perpetrators of the Epilepsy Foundation raid is uncertain, some claim that the raid was organized by the amorl faction of Anonymous in response to the hactivists who had launched a global campaign against the Church of Scientology few weeks earlier. Thus, in early 2008, Anonymous no longer designates a collective assemblage of enunciation but two opposing assemblages-the so-called moralfags and the lulzfags." - p 179

"As we shall see in the next section, the emergence of a political wing of Anonymous was bound to accentuate this tendency toward the creation of organized forms of play by incorporating the raid into structured operations and long-term campaigns. Such operations were going to be informed by broad ethical principles that were shared by most Anons. These included the renunciation of personal publicity (a practice shamed as "namefagging"), a refusal to attack the media, and an unyielding commitment to exposing the secrets of those in positions of authority." - p 181

While I'm in general agreement w/ the political principles outlined above, there's always the danger of any rules being manipulated by the people they potentially benefit. Any sort of personal renunciation is all well-&-good for a person w/ inherited wealth who may not depend on getting credit for things from time-to-time for their bread-&-butter. It's esp good for them if ultimately the renunciation of someone else gives them the false glow of having accomplished what someone else actually did.

"On January 21, the Anons in #press uploaded a short video clip to YouTube. One of the better known documents produced by Anonymous ever since, "Message to Scientology," showed footage of ominous clouds brushing a desolated industrial landscape. After threatening to destroy and expel the Church from the Internet ("for the good of your followers, the good of mankind-for the laughs"), a robotic, computer-generated voice continues:

"We cannot die, we are forever. We're getting bigger every day-and solely by the force of our ideas, malicious and hostile as they often are. If you want another name for your opponent, then call us Legion, for we are many.

"Appropriating a passage from the New Testament in which Jesus encounters and exorcises a man possessed by the evil spirit Legion ("My name is Legion: for we are many"), Anonymous links its own "immortality" to the numeric force of its army-a rhetorical strategy that had also been adopted by the Luddites." - pp 182-183

I wonder how this wd've been rc'vd if it had involved a similar quote, assuming there is one, from the Quran. I had an unexpected interesting experience when a young Moslem artist from Egypt was visiting me a few yrs ago. I was telling her about the resistance to the G20 here in Pittsburgh in 2009 & showing her the 6 t-shirts I designed & screen-printed to be worn during demonstrations. She liked them & sd that they reflected her recent Egyptian experiences until I got to a t-shirt that read: G20 = protesters vs police state David vs Goliath & her facial expression changed from friendly to darkly serious.

I had even prefaced showing her the shirt by saying something like 'I don't usually reference the bible but it seemed too good an opportunity to get the general public to understand.' Given that I detest religion I wdn't quote the Quran either. Since I was trying to be an amenable host I didn't bring up my anti-religious philosophy since my guests were Muslims. The backs of the t-shirts all read: "I went to a terrorist training camp & all I got was this lousy t-shirt!"

It didn't occur to me that my guest wd have a negative reaction to the "David & Goliath" part but it now seems that it cd be taken as an ancient analogy of Israelis vs Palestinians or some such. Another unexpected thing was that during the G20 almost no-one wd wear the t-shirts even tho I was giving them away. When I mentioned this to one friend of mien she asked me: "What color are they?" & I told her "white" she sd that that was why - people wd only wear black t-shirts. No matter that white t-shirts are cheaper & that I was paying for all this out of my own shallow pockets. The sad thing is that I think the preference for black was more fashion than anything - don't wanna look unhip at the protest! Yawnsville, daddio. To me, that shows how easily people can be controlled by the stupidest little thing. Anyway, Rich Pell & I made a pretty funny video spoofing the media for that one: "TV 'News' Commits Suicide": http://youtu.be/hU-_aL7kKBI .

"Although it is true that anyone is formally free to borrow the moniker Anonymous, when the improper name is mobilized in conjunction with impromptu actions such as the 2006-8 raids, it comes to designate a swarm whose complex behavior emerges from the distributed coordination of relatively simple tasks" - p 186

endnote 53, p 265: "As Alexander R. Galloway and Eugene Thacker point out, from a politicomilitary standpoint, the streength of the swarm lies in the fact that having "no 'front,' no battle line, no central point of vulnerability," the swarm is an amorphous and ever-evolving entity that cannot be faced and confronted as a single entity."

I'm reminded of Stanislav Lem's 1967 novel The Invincible in wch a search for a crashed spaceship leads to the discovery that the spaceship itself has adapted to the planet it's crashed on by mutating into insect-like components. Of course, a problem w/ a swarm can be that great numbers of disposable, ie: replaceable components are called for. That can be seen as an advantage but it doesn't bode well for those who're 'replaceable'.

"As Alexander Galloway and Eugene Thacker point out, networks can accommodate both centralized and decentralized topologies, control and emergence, regulation and the free flow of information." (p 186) - just as some of us can accommodate being both namehags & anonymous.

"In this way, the needs of cyberwarfare created a technoelite whose power sharply contrasted with Anonymous's horizontal structure and democratic decision-making processes.

"Throughout the course of Operation Payback, this technoelite met in a secret IRC channel called #command. Even though some organizers would occasionally be recruited from the public #SAVETBP, this invite-only channel functioned as an organizational hub that remained invisible to most Anons. It is in this channel that key decision on what to target and for how long were made, often by taking a formal vote among the organizers." - p 191

One of the greatest strengths of this bk is that Deseriis doesn't pretend to be 'neutral' but still presents as 'realistic' an analysis of the subject as he can manage - & he can manage very well, thankyouverymuch.

For those of us who support leaks of material that outs government covert operations, such as myself, & also who conduct fairly regular net transactions the following is very revealing: "Every DNS and Amazon cut their web hosting services to WikiLeaks. Shortly thereafter, citing presumed violations of their terms of service, PayPal, Visa, and MasterCard also cut their finance services to WikiLeaks. To some activists, these concerted actions appeared to satisfy specific government requests in retaliation for the violation of state secrets. For many others, the very fact that PayPal continued to process donations to organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan while cutting them to an organization that had not even been formally indicted was morally unacceptable and outrageous." (p 192)

While I find this suppression of WikiLeaks despicable it's also quite possible that PayPal's processing of KKK funds is kept open at the request of the FBI to enable greater surveillance - not that I support the FBI. Furthermore, it's interesting to speculate about why WikiLaks poses such a major threat.

endnote 85, p 268: "Rao and Reiley note that an unintended consequence of spam has been to drive out of business small e-mail providers that cannot afford the high costs of anti-spam technologies." I can vouch for that, the "fyi" company that I had my "anon" email w/ drowned in a puke sea of spam.

"Knowing that Tunisian media routinely ignored street protests, locals decided to film their own actions and post video to Facebook, which, unlike most video-sharing sites, escaped censorship. From Facebook the videos were picked up by Al-Jazeera Mubasher, a satellite channel that specializes in airing raw, unedited footage." - p 198

Interesting. A friend of mine recently told me about talking w/ a Saudi ex-pat who explained that in Saudi Arabia working for Facebook basically monitoring what was censorable content was a job equivalent to going into the military in the US. In other words, people perceived as having little or no economic future were encouraged to work for Facebook as a sort of 'way out'. Think about that when you post something on FB.

Internet security is another interesting subject: ""do not use any or all of your actual name in account and user names; do not mention anything that could be personally identifying; do not mention time zones; do not mention physical characteristics or abilities; do not mention relationships, family, or relatives"" (p 200)

"On January 28, 2011, the Egyptian government made the historical move of shutting down Internet access for almost the entire country. In response, the hactivists convinced two European ISPs to restore their old modem banks and faxed information into the country on how to access them. Land telephone lines were also used to fax medical information on how to treat tear gas, scramble communications, and set up local wireless networks that relied on cell phones and other available hardware."

Go Team Go!!

"Anonymous is not expected to lead a revolution but only to provide leadership in certain areas, such as setting up secure communication infrastructures, unveiling the identity of police officers who are accused of wrongdoing, and gaining access to restricted information." - p 211

A part of Deseriis's conclusion is this:

"Ludd ultimately expresses the impossibility of recomposing the paternalist economy of the guild system with the political economy of industrial capitalism; the accumulation of negative reputation in the Smithee signature shows that the regimes of property and propriety cannot be decoupled for too long within the modern culture industry; the Cantsin experience demonstrates that the inclusive ethos of mail art cannot be reconciled with the selectivity of the art system; Blissett's artificial mythmaking reveals the impossibility of myth, or the inessential being-in-common of condividuals who no longer live in a world founded by mythic speech; and Anoynmous shows how the amoral and self-propelling logic of the lulz is ultimately incompatible with a notion of politics aimed at pursuing "rational objectives" and with a solidarity based on the recognition of the vulnerability of the other." - p 219

One thing that's perhaps lacking in this very logical bk is the way intuition plays into some people's desire to participate in such projects. People aren't always making choices based on clearly enunciated goals, it often just 'feels right'.

"Although this book has been researched over the course of many years, beginning in 2011 my thinking and writing have been heavily influenced by historic events such as the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions and the formation of anticapitalist social movements such as the Spanish 15-M, the North American Occupy, and the Turkish Gezi Park. I believe that the theories and practices analyzed in this book are relevant to the internal dynamic of these movements in many ways." - pp 220-221

"This kind of perspective is quite different from the one adopted by a number of activist theorists who have described these movements as inherently horizontal, democratic, and consensus driven. Because in a collective assemblage actions enjoy a relative autonomy from signification, they can generate internal tensions among activists who are concerned with the overall direction of a movement." - p 221

endnote 16, p 274: "For example, Not An Alternative, a Brooklyn-based collective that was involved with Occupy Wall Street, notes that the OWS Direct Action group organized itself as a tight-knit affinity group. Concerned that the group could be infiltrated by undercover police, the activists decided to plan many of their actions behind closed doors and without seeking approval of the General Assembly-the deliberative body that was meant to coordinate the activity of the working groups. "As a result, throughout the duration of the movement, accusations have been fired at groups for organizing actions in the name of Occupy that were not agreed to by the General Assembly," writes Not An Alternative. "In a sense, a mindset was operative in the movement that simultaneously encouraged people to act autonomously and condemned them when they succeeded for not having secured approval in advance."

I'm totally on the side of NAA here & I think this case exemplifies the problems of having any organization be organized in a way that requires the sublimation of individuality. Furthermore, let's not forget that in any group of people there's going to be conformism & that the person or people who best exemplify the conformist norm, regardless of whether they're poseurs, liars, thieves, cowards, or egomaniacs, will have more sway over conformist opinion regardless of how contrary to the hypothetically shared purpose of the group than any person whose intentions might be truer to the cause but whose personal characteristics are outside the conformist norm. And MOST people are hopeless conformists - even the ones whose subcultures give them the delusion otherwise.

"The challenge for contemporary social movements is how to develop connections among a plurality of actors and agents who, by acknowledging those gaps, are driven by a healthy agonism over the mode of disposition and usage of a shared symbolic power. Rather than a mythic search for consensus or an ideological commitment to horizontalism, it is the awareness that such power stems from the tension between irreducible practices and organizational forms that will be driving the transformative social movements of the twenty-first century. The improper name is only one medium through which such tension can be productively articulated and put to work." - p 222

EXCELLENT!! Thank you, Marco Deseriis, for making the situation a little less normal.





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