From The Independent On Sunday, September 14, 1997
A SHOPPER'S GUIDE TO CULTURAL TERRORISM
Are you a radical maverick looking for new ways to express
Sure you are. TONY NAILOR has the book you need
Too fussy about personal hygiene to follow Swampy down his tunnel? Too handsome to sell "Socialist Worker"? Radical, but no imagination? Then Stewart Home's new book, "Mind Invaders", could be just what you're looking for. "Mind Invaders" brings together essays and manifestos from a growing sub-culture of smirking cultural terrorists. In the absence of chic, Baader-Meinhoff-type [sic] icons, Europe's radical mavericks - armed only with DTP, websites and barmy ideas - are turning the satirical stunt into the Molotov cocktail of the Nineties. "When the Celts went into battle, the Druids would satirise their opponents.
But, their satire was so effective it could bring blisters to people's cheeks," explains Home. Funny has never been so serious.
All you need is a little gall. Take the four Italians, all called Luther Blissett, who made headlines this year after they were caught travelling ticketless on a Rome tram. They argued in court that "a collective identity does not travel with a ticket". Commuters, what are you waiting for?
"Mind Invaders" has something to kick-start even the most jaded Citizen Smith. Mandy B's "Piss Manifesto" offers practical advice and fashion tips for women who want to liberate themselves from the chauvinist orthodoxy of having to sit down to pee. Yes, girls, it's time to learn the art of upright urination. Got a few weeks to kill? Why not organise a game of urban poker, as practised by Glasgow's Nonsology Workshop for a Non-Linear Architecture. Hands are made up from playing cards found in the street. You want action? Then set up a branch of the Association of Autonomous Astronauts - they're circumventing the class struggle of today by taking the fight to outer space. Goodbye NASA, hello community-based space exploration programmes. "The point is that only those who attempt the impossible will achieve the absurd", they argue. A rationale that, after a few chapters, you will accept without question. At its worst - see Home's own avant-bardist (really, you don't want to know) Neoist Alliance - "Mind Invaders" is unintelligible babble. At its best - see Luther Blissett - it's like an international version of "Brass Eye". The Luther Blissetts, named after the ex-Watford and AC Milan footballer (the subject of enormous hype in the Italian press) are dedicated to subverting media conceits. Their most notorious prank duped Italy's questionable prime-time missing persons TV show, "Chi l'ha visto?" ("Has Anybody Seen Them?"), into searching for a non-exixtent British artist, Harry Kipper. A network of Luther Blissetts in London and Bologna persuaded the show that Harry, who was supposed to be mountain-biking around Europe to link various cities with an imaginary line that spelt "ART", had disappeared. Luther Blissett said: "We wanted to do more than simply discredit the show, we wanted to make them waste their time tracking a non-existing person, so that the real runaways could stay free." Luther Blissett, now assistant manager at his old club Watford, is somewhat bemused.
"Mind Invaders: A Reader in Psychic Warfare, Cultural Sabotage and Semiotic Terrorism", Serpent's Tail (£.9.99)
From "The Face", September 97, p.128:
Like the Situationists, today's resistance culture is made
up of people who have abandoned the idea of people-powered politics,
and instead formed themselves into small groups which create their
own bulletins and pages on the Internet, and which try to create
stories and spectacles in the media to make their points to the
public. Think KLF, Peter Tatchell, and read a new book called
"Mind Invaders: A Reader in Psychic Warfare, Cultural Warfare
and Semiotic Terrorism"(Serpent's Tail, £ 9.99).
In "Mind Invaders", the author - punk novelist and journalist Stewart Home - groups Decadent Action with a host of other international media-savvy left-wing activists such as Italy's Luther Blissett group (yes, they are bizarrely named after the Eighties Watford footballer), which among other activities, uses radio broadcasts to organise spontaneous street demonstrations. The groups in the book (there are dozens, including the London Psychogeographical Association, the Neoist Alliance, and the Nonsology Workshop) all fall somewhere between over-educated joking, showing off and challenging our conventional view of how reality works; if there is a political point in it all, says Home, it's to do with the long-term effects of the satire of our social system that groups like Decadent Action present.