Public Domain Super Heroes

Luther Blissett

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Luther Blissett

Real Name


First Appearance


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Unknown, multiple


Luther Blissett is a multiple-use name, an "open pop star" informally adopted and shared by hundreds of artists and activists all over Europe and the Americas since 1994. The pseudo-name first appeared in Bologna, Italy, in mid-1994, when a number of cultural activists began using it for staging a series of urban and media pranks and to experiment with new forms of authorship and identity. From Bologna the multiple-use name spread to other European cities, such as Rome and London, as well as countries such as Germany, Spain, and Slovenia. Sporadic appearances of Luther Blissett have been also noted in Canada, the United States, and Brazil.

Selected List of Luther Blissett's Stunts, Pranks, and Media Hoaxes

  • January 1995. Harry Kipper, a British conceptual artist, disappears at the Italo-Slovenian border while touring Europe on a mountain bike, allegedly with the purpose of tracing the word ART on the map of the continent. The victim of the prank is a famous missing-persons prime-time show on the Italian state television. They send out a TV crew to look for a person that never existed. They go as far as London, where novelist Stewart Home and Richard Essex of the London Psychogeographical Association pose as close friends of Kipper's. The hoax goes on until "Luther Blissett" claims responsibility for it.
  • September 1994–May 1995. In September 1994, a Bolognese community radio began broadcasting Radio Blissett, a late-night show featuring a variable number of Luther Blissetts who "patrolled" the city on foot and called the studio from local phone booths. Inspired by the Lettrist-Situationist urban drift or dérive—a seemingly aimless wandering through the city whereby psychogeographers go in search of heightened emotional experiences—Radio Blissett allowed players to interact at a distance in real time. Listeners could also call in from home and direct the patrols to various locations to join or create unexpected social events, including guerrilla-theater interventions, street parties, three-sided football matches, and “psychic attacks” against public buildings and institutions. In the Spring 1995, the experiment was duplicated in Rome, where the wider extension of the city required the simultaneous use of car patrols and cell phones. The Saturday night show, which aired on the frequencies of Radio Città Futura, featured psychic attacks against the Italian copyright office, the office of employment, and other semi-improvised direct actions which culminated in one of the most well-known episodes of the Blissett’s saga.
  • June 17, 1995. A few dozen participating to the Roman Radio Blissett boarded a night tram at different consecutive stops. A rave party took place on the vehicle until the police decided to stop it. Requested to disembark and identify themselves, the ravers refused to identify themselves other than with the multiple-use name. A riot ensued in which the police fired three shots in the air. A journalist from Radio Citta' Futura covered the event with his cell phone broadcasting the riot and the shots on the radio program. The radio program caused a media sensation.
  • June 1995. Loota is a female chimpanzee whose paintings are to be exhibited at the Venice Biennale of Contemporary Arts. In the context of the hoax, Loota is described as a former victim of sadistic experiments in a pharmaceutical lab. The monkey was then saved by the Animal Liberation Front, and later became a talented artist. Some newspapers announced the event. However, Loota did not exist.
  • Nov 1995. An article in the "Workshop For A Non-Linear Architecture" journal Viscosity stating that the K Foundation had announced a 23-year moratorium on "all further activity" following their burning of a million pounds in cash on the Isle of Jura is credited to Luther Blissett.
  • 1998–2000. In 1998, Italian art magazines such as Tema Celeste and Flesh Art begin reporting about the activities of Darko Maver, a hitherto unknown radical Serbian performance artist who has been disseminating hyper-realistic replicas of dismembered bodies in public spaces and hotel rooms across the former Yugoslavia. The magazines and a web site called "Free Art Campaign" report that the artist has been arrested by the Serbian authorities for his performances, which are meant to offer a scathing meditation on the hyperreality and media representation of the Yugoslav Wars. On April 30, 1999 the Free Art Campaign announces that Maver has been found dead in a prison cell in Podgorica, Kosovo. In March 2000, after alternative art spaces such as Kapelica Gallery in Ljubljana, Forte Prenestino in Rome, and major art venues such as the Venice Biennale have dedicated retrospectives and paid tribute to the artist, the Luther Blissett Project, along with the newborn net art collective, announce that Darko Maver is himself a work of art.
  • 2007. A month before the appearance on the bookshelves of Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows, an email was sent to the Full Disclosure mailing list. In the e-mail, a self-declared group of Catholic hackers purportedly gave away the ending of the book, declaring they violated the computer systems of Bloomsbury (exclusive publisher of the Harry Potter books) to obtain it. The e-mail quoted Joseph Ratzinger's words against Harry Potter. The news escalated from niche IT security mailing lists to mainstream media outlets, and in about 48 hours, it was run by CNN, BBC, Reuters, and over 9000 blogs (declared in the claim). Three days after, Luther Blissett claimed responsibility for the hoax in a public email in which he described how easily the media could be manipulated and how this could be used for psyops purposes. The revelation was ignored by most media outlets, with the notable exception of Noticiasdot, which published an interview with Luther Blissett. The psyop may be the cause of the -5% drop of Bloomsbury Publishing PLC stock quoted on the London Stock Exchange.


  • For reasons that remain unknown, though according to one former member the decision was based purely on the comic value of the name, the pseudonym was borrowed from a real-life Luther Blissett, a notable association football player, who played for A.C. Milan, Watford F.C. and England in the 1980s.
  • The novel Q was written by four Bologna-based member of the LBP, as a final contribution to the project, and published in Italy in 1999. So far, it has been translated into English (British and American), Spanish, German, Dutch, French, Portuguese (Brazilian), Danish, Polish, Greek, Czech, Russian, Turkish, Basque and Korean. In August, 2003, the book was nominated for the Guardian First Book Prize. In January, 2000, the authors of Q formed a new group called Wu Ming, under which name many novels were published in several languages and countries. Because the four members who went on to form Wu Ming are known (rather than the founders and members of the LBP, who are not known and remain anonymous), Wu Ming cannot be considered public domain.

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