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Creative Commons LicenseExcept where stated otherwise, the content of this website is licensed under a Creative Common License. You are free to copy, distribute, display, and perform the work. You are also free to make derivative works, under the following commandments: thou shalt give the original author credit; thou shalt not use this work for commercial purposes; If thou alter, transform, or build upon a text, thou shalt distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.


Wu Ming Foundation: Who We Are And What We Do

This page tells the story of a mysterious collective of guerrillla novelists from Italy. The tale begins from their previous militancy in a loose-knit cultural network named after a Black soccer player.
If you want to find info on the Wu Ming Foundation and the Luther Blissett Project, if you enjoyed (or hated) one of Wu Ming's novels and want to know more about the authors, if you want to write a feature article, a review, an essay, a smart-ass blog post or comment, this is the right place to come to.


four writers, an open communitya little blue square Index

00. Prologue
01. Who is Luther Blissett: Birth of a folk hero
02. Luther Blissett Trivia and Links
03. Making The Reputation Of Imaginary Artists
04. Making The Reputation of Imaginary Cultists
05. The Night Luther Blissett Hijacked A Bus In Rome
06. The novel Q: Do what is possible, and then move on
06b. Sounds Like Thom Yorke has a new mission
07. Copyleft! Since 1996
08. Wu Ming and the novel 54: Slightly more than expected from a band of novelists
09. Manituana
10. Altai: a Return to Q
11. A very incomplete list of urban legends and false rumors about us
12. Bibliography
13. Prosecco from a workers' coop vineyard: a selection of reviews



A little blue square Prologue


In 1994, hundreds of European artists, activists and pranksters adopted and shared the same identity.
They all called themselves Luther Blissett and started to raise hell in the cultural industry. It was a five year plan.
They worked together to tell the world a great story, create a legend, give birth to a new kind of folk hero.
In January 2000, some of them regrouped as Wu Ming. The latter project, albeit more focused on literature and storytelling in a narrower sense of the word, is no less radical than the old one.


Luther's FaceA little blue square Who is Luther Blissett: Birth of a folk hero

"Luther Blissett" is a multi-use name, an "open reputation" informally adopted and shared by hundreds of artists and social activists all over Europe since Summer 1994.
For reasons that remain unknown, the name was borrowed from link a 1980's British soccer player of Afro-Caribbean origins.
In Italy, between 1994 and 1999, the so-called Luther Blissett Project (an organized network within the open community sharing the "Luther Blissett" identity) became an extremely popular phenomenon, managing to create a legend, the reputation of a folk hero.
This Robin Hood of the information age waged a guerrilla warfare on the cultural industry, ran unorthodox solidarity campaigns for victims of censorship and repression and - above all - played elaborate media pranks as a form of art, always claiming responsibility and explaining what bugs they had exploited to plant a fake story.
Blissett was active also in other countries, especially in Spain and Germany.
December 1999 marked the end of the LBP's Five Year Plan. All the "veterans" committed a symbolic seppuku (samurai ritual suicide).
The end of the LBP did not entail the end of the name, which keeps re-emerging in the cultural debate and is still a popular byline on the web.
Luther Blissett's face was created by Andrea Alberti and Edi Bianco in 1994, by morphing old 1930's and 1940's portraits of WM1's great-uncles. Click on the image to download it at high resolution (jpg + zip, 500 dpi, 940 kb). This picture is in the public domain.

A little blue square Luther Blissett Trivia and Links
(Music, Spoken Word, Video etc.) 

Piermario Ciani Here's
link a tribute to Piermario Ciani (pic on the left), artist and cultural saboteur, one of the founding fathers of the Luther Blissett Project. He died of prostate cancer in 2006, at 55 years of age.

Here's a link Books quiz on Italian literature from The Guardian on line (UK). Check out the first question.

The end of the Five Year Plan was celebrated with the release of link Luther Blissett: The Open Pop Star, a cd compilation filled with weird electronica, mysterious voices and wild cut-ups. Among the contributing artists was Merzbow, the frighteningly prolific Japanese noise-master.

Luther Blisset (with only one t) is the title of a song from link Tuxedomoon's album Cabin in the Sky(2004).

In the UK, one of the early adopters of the multi-use name was the novelist Stewart Home, author of such books as Come Before Christ and Murder Love and 69 Things to Do with a Dead Princess. Click here and listen to Stewart declaiming his short story Cheap Night Out, live at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, August 28th, 1997 (mp3). The main character and narrating I is none other than Luther Blissett.

Click and link watch Luther Blissett (the soccer player) explaining the Luther Blissett Project on the British television (Fantasy Football Euro 2004, on ITV, 29 June 2004)

Click and link watch Luther Blissett (the soccer player) answering a question on the Luther Blissett Project.

Click and listen to The Luther Blissett Enigma, a radio novella broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 2001.


A little blue square Making the Reputation of Imaginary Artists
The Way of the Guerrilla: A selection of Luther Blissett Pranks

Roberto Schembari a.k.a. Darko MaverLuther Blissett's media hoaxes were crowded with imaginary artists, because the art world is crowded with gullible people and makes for a perfect target.

January 1995
. HARRY KIPPER (just a namesake, nothing to do with link this guy), 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 crew and squander taxpayers' money to look for a person that never existed. They go as far as London and make fools of themselves until "Luther Blissett" claims responsibility for the hoax.

June 1995
. LOOTA is a female chimpanzee whose paintings are going to be exhibited at the Venice Biennale of Contemporary Arts. Formerly a victim of sadistic experiments in a pharmaceutical lab, Loota was saved by the Animal Liberation Front, then became a talented artist. Some newspapers announce the event. Unfortunately, Loota doesn't exist. No problem, disappointed visitors of the Biennale may turn their attention to a lot of garbage created by humans.

1998-99
. DARKO MAVER is a controversial Serbian sculptor and performance artist. His works are life-size dummies looking very much like brutalized, maimed, blood-covered corpses. His art is the target of state censorship, and he's locked in a Serbian prison for anti-social conduct. In Italy, pictures of Maver's works are exhibited in Bologna and Rome. Prestigious, high-brow art magazines publish a solidarity appeal. Some respected critics even claim to know the artist personally. When "Darko Maver" dies in prison during a NATO bombing, pictures of the body appear on the web. Only, that man isn't "Darko" at all, he's a Sicilian member of the LBP. The truth is revealed a few weeks after the Seppuku. The "works" were pics of actual corpses, found on rotten.com. It's the last big hoax by the LBP, and the debut of a new group, 0100101110101101.org.



A little blue square Making the Reputation of Imaginary Cultists
The Way of the Guerrilla: A selection of Luther Blissett Pranks

Luther Blissett's most complex prank was played by dozens of people in Latium, central Italy. It lasted a year, involving black masses, satanism, Christian witch-hunters in the backwoods of Viterbo and so on. The local and national media bought everything with no fact-checking at all, politicians jumped on the bandwagon of mass paranoia, there was even video footage of a (rather clumsy) satanic ritual being broadcast on tv, until Luther Blissett claimed responsibility for the whole racket and produced a huge mass of evidence.
"Homoepathic counter-information": by injecting a strong dose of falsehood in the media, Luther Blissett showed the unprofessionality of most reporters and the groundlessness of moral panic.
This happened in 1997. The hoax was praised and analyzed by scholars and media experts, and became a case study in several scientific texts.



A little blue square The Night Luther Blissett Hijacked a Bus in Rome 

A Roman BusFour persons are found ticketless on an Italian train. Hardly unusual, isn't it? When asked in court (in court?) for their names, they all answer 'Luther Blissett'.
If you seek "Luther Blissett" on the web, sooner or later you'll bump into this story.
Well, it isn't true. Moreover, the real story is much better.
It wasn't a train, it was a night bus. It happened in Rome on June 17th, 1995. A few dozen ravers occupied and "hijacked" a night bus. A rave party took place on the vehicle until the police decided to block the street and stop it.
When the ravers came out of the bus, the policemen attacked them, one of them even fired three shots in the air.
A journalist from an independent radio station (Radio Citta' Futura) was also on the bus, he was covering the event on the phone for a live chat show, thus the shots were heard by thousands of listeners (Click here and listen to the mp3, 128k).
Eighteen people were arrested. Some of them said that they were "Luther Blissett", but none of them actually claimed that at the police station, later on.
The media extensively covered the event, which showed how much the "Luther Blissett" name was penetrating youth subcultures.
We really don't know how this turned into that four-people-on-a-train story. Years later, it keeps popping up here and there. We used to find it funny, now it's just... uncanny.


Q, frontcover of the British paperback editionA little blue square The novel Q
Do what is possible, and then move on.

link The novel Q was written by four Bologna-based members of the LBP as a final contribution to the project, and published in Italy in 1999.
The novel is set in 16th century central Europe, during the peasant riots and popular rebellions that almost "hijacked" the Reformation, before suffering bloody repression with Luther's enthusiastic approval.
McKenzie Wark, author of A Hacker Manifesto, concluded his review of the novel with these remarks:
'Q is in some ways an optimistic book... It's a question of a narrative resurrection, where the return of the marginalized, the disempowered is still possible. A return, not as victim, but as a different kind of hero. The kind of hero who works in situations, does what is possible, and moves on. A Luther Blissett.'

"It is hard to do better than this vivid, terrifying portrait of a survivor of the Protestant Reformation . . . The characters in Q bleed real blood, blood that was still soaking Europe in the trenches of World War I, and the firestorms of World War II." -- The New Republic

So far, Q has been translated into English (British and American), Spanish, German, Dutch, French, Portuguese (Brazilian), Danish, Polish, Greek, Czech, Russian and Korean.

Thom YorkeSOUNDS LIKE THOM YORKE HAS A NEW MISSION

Here's something from an interview with Radiohead at The Observer Music Monthly (December 9, 2007):

Thom's reading Q by mysterious Italian anarchist group Luther Blisset
[ehm...]. I tried to read that once, I tell him.
'Oh it's fucking ace! But my missus, that's her specialist field, so she's been explaining it to me all the way through. Medieval church carnage. It's mental. I want to get it made into a film. That's my next mission.'
Using the
In Rainbows profits?
'Mmm-mm,' says Thom Yorke, shaking his head. 'I doubt it. That would cover basically the catering.'

A few weeks later, a bird told us that Q was in a reading list compiled by Yorke and other Radiohead member Ed O' Brien for the Borders website. Here is Thom's description of the book: "A tremendous book that makes the inquisitions of 16th-century Europe sound exciting."


Related link - Why Have We Called Our Newsletter(s) After a Vietnamese General?, or "Operation Q".
Excerpt from Seppuku! The Five-Year Plan of a Multi-Use Name, introduction to: Luther Blissett, Totò, Peppino e la guerra psichica 2.0, Einaudi, Turin 2000, ISBN 88-06-1541-17

A little blue square
Copyleft!
Since 1996

Besides the complexity of the plot and its allegorical values, the fact that Q was published with a kind of "copyleft" notice caused quite a sensation among those who ignored that, several years before the Creative Commons licenses, the practical critique of 'copyright as we've known it' had been at the core of the LBP's activities.
This is the notice:
The partial or total reproduction of this book, in electronic form or otherwise, is consented to for non-commercial purposes, provided that the original copyright notice and this notice are included and the publisher and source are clearly acknowledged.
Wu Ming's writings on copyright, copyleft and intellectual property are link stored here.


band A little blue square Wu Ming and the novel 54
Slightly more than expected from a band of novelists


In January 2000, a fifth person joined the four authors of Q and a new band of authors was born, Wu Ming.
"Wu - Ming" is a chinese word, it means either "anonymous" (無名) or "five names" (伍名), it depends on link how you pronounce the first syllable. The name of the band is meant both as a tribute to dissidents ("Wu Ming" is a common byline among Chinese citizens demanding democracy and freedom of speech) and as a refusal of the celebrity-making machine which turns the author into a star. "Wu Ming" is also a reference to the third sentence in the Dàodéjīng (Tao Te Ching): "Wu ming tian di zhi shi", "Nameless is Heaven's and Earth's Origin". "Wu Ming" (唔明) may also mean "Don't understand" in Cantonese (thanks, Wesley!).
We are not anonymous ourselves, our names aren't secret. However, we use five noms de plume composed by the name of the band plus a numeral, following the alphabetical order of our surnames. The current line-up is: Roberto Bui aka Wu Ming 1, Giovanni Cattabriga aka Wu Ming 2, Federico Guglielmi aka Wu Ming 4 and Riccardo Pedrini aka Wu Ming 5. Luca Di Meo aka Wu Ming 3 left the band in the springtime of 2008.
In their early years, the group's major effort was link 54, a novel with dozens of characters (including Cary Grant and Marshall Tito) set in 1954. The book inspired the Italian folk-rock band link Yo Yo Mundi, whose concept album (also titled 54) was released at the beginning of 2004.
The members of the band also wrote "solo" novels. Havana Glam by Wu Ming 5 was published in 2001. Guerra agli Umani by Wu Ming 2 and New Thing by Wu Ming 1 were published in 2004. Wu Ming 5's Free Karma Food was published in 2006, Wu Ming 4's Stella del mattino was published in 2008.
Wu Ming also co-wrote the screenplay for Guido Chiesa's movie Radio Alice (2004).

So far, 54 has been translated into English, Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese.


Manituana bannerA little blue square Manituana

The novel link Manituana was written in the 2004-2007 period and was published in Italy in March 2007.
It is the first episode of an 18th-century pan-Atlantic trilogy which we call the "Atlantic Triptych" and will keep us writing for quite a few years. All novels will be set on the backdrop of the American Revolution, from 1775 to 1783, all across the Ocean (North America, Europe, the West Indies and Africa). Manituana reached as high as link #4 in the Italian best-seller charts.
The English translation was published in the UK and the US by Verso in October 2009, with extremely positive critical reactions.
Manituana is at the centre of a complex transmedia storytelling project where a pivotal role is played by link the book's official, multilingual website.

So far, Manituana has been translated into English, Spanish and French.



Altai - Italian frontcoverA little blue square Altai: a Return to Q

Our latest novel Altai was published in Italian in November 2009. As we wrote link while we were writing it:

"Over the years, we have repeatedly stated that we would never write a sequel to Q. And, strictly speaking, it should be pointed out that this is not exactly a sequel. However, it is pointless to quibble: we have felt a new need, initiated a rethinking, and finally changed our mind... It is known that the band recently experienced a critical period, a very hard time which ended exactly one year ago when Luca (Wu Ming 3) resigned from the collective. We felt the need to trace back the point of origins of our adventure, and go back to the crime scene."

While Altai features some characters from Q, this novel isn’t set in Central Europe. The scenario embraces the whole Eastern Mediterranean: the Balkans, Greece, Istanbul, the Red Sea.


A little blue square A very incomplete list of urban legends and false rumors about us Are we anarchist? No.

1.
We were allegedly inspired by Umberto Eco's novels and Q reminds of The Name of the Rose.
Why? Because it's about heretics and inquisitors!
They might as well say that Q reminds of Taxi Driver: isn't it also about madmen and pimps?
"I'm afraid the only reason British journalists latched on to that idea was because the Name of the Rose was probably the last Italian book they read." (WM1 interviewed by link The Guardian, August 28, 2003)

2. We are allegedly "situationist" and/or "anarchist".
Really, really, really baffling.
Have these epithets retained any meaning at all, or are they thrown around for want of anything sensible to say (and then picked up in good faith and taken for granted by unsuspecting people)?
We were never interested in "situationism", nor have we ever been anarchist. We respect anarchists but we have a different background.
Ok, we're left-wing people, that's no mystery. And yes, we may be described as "radicals" if you please, but further, inconclusive speculation will be filed under "CLD", Compulsive Labeling Disorder.

3. Each chapter of our novels is allegedly written by one member of the collective (and readers can tell one individual style from the others, got'cha!).
Not at all. After years of brainstorming and writing, and months of collective editing, we don't even remember who wrote what. All variations in style are purposefully crafted by the whole group, after detailed discussions.


A little blue square
Bibliography

Q (Einaudi, Turin 1999 - Mondadori, Barcelona 2000 - Seuil, Paris 2001 (title: L'Oeil de Carafa) - Wereldbibliotheek, Amsterdam 2001 - Hovedland, Jøbjerg 2001 - Travlos, Athena 2001 - Piper, München 2002 - Conrad, São Paulo 2002 - Heinemann, London 2003 - Harcourt, Orlando, FL 2004 - Wydawnictwo Albatros, Warszawa 2005)

Asce di guerra
[Hatchets of War] (co-authored with Vitaliano Ravagli, Tropea, Milan 2000)

Havana Glam
(solo novel by Wu Ming 5, Fanucci, Rome 2001)

54 (Einaudi, Turin 2002 - Mondadori, Madrid 2003 - Vassallucci, Amsterdam 2003 - Harcourt, Orlando, FL 2004)

Esta revolución no tiene rostro
[This Revolution Has No Face] (a collection of articles, short stories and miscellaneous writings, Acuarela, Madrid 2002)

Giap!
(another collection, Einaudi, Turin 2003)

Guerra agli umani
[War on the Humans] (solo novel by Wu Ming 2, Einaudi, Turin 2004 - Editions Métailié, Paris 2007)

New Thing
(solo novel by Wu Ming 1, Einaudi, Turin 2004 - Editions Métailié, Paris 2007)

Asce di guerra
2005 [Hatchets of War 2.0] (co-authored with Vitaliano Ravagli, Einaudi, Turin 2005)

Free Karma Food
(solo novel by Wu Ming 5, Rizzoli, Milan 2006)

Manituana
(Einaudi, Turin 2007)

Previsioni del tempo (Edizioni Ambiente, Milan 2008)

Stella del mattino (Einaudi, Turin 2008)

Grand River (Rizzoli, Milan 2008)

New Italian Epic (Einaudi, Milan 2009)

Altai (Einaudi, Turin 2009)


Q, British hardcover edition A little blue square Prosecco from a Workers'-Coop Vineyard
A selection of reviews and feature articles from the Anglo-American press.

link The Independent (UK) on Manituana
"Manituana shuns anachronism as it sets about delivering a fast-flowing, densely peopled, richly decorated story of a precious way of life, and thought, on the brink of the modern abyss. As for Wu Ming and their bewitching fictional fellowship, let's hope that many moons will pass before we see the last of these mysterious Mohicans."

link The Guardian (UK) on Manituana
"Wu Ming squeeze every potential for incisive, rabid adventure they can out of the popular novel. Their books sizzle with a kind of lefty jazz: they're linguistically and culturally hip, historically astute, with a heart worn challengingly on the sleeve."

link The Herald (UK): An Interview with Wu Ming 1 on Manituana
"Manituana recounts the American war of independence from the losing side – the Six Nations of the Iroquois – and employs all the tricks and devices familiar to readers of their previous offerings... Conflicting narratives, false trails, elaborate games and back-and-forth propaganda. Seasoned throughout with a neo-marxist outlook that throws up dozens more questions than it answers, it’s an enlightening, sometimes infuriating, but always invigorating read."

link The Independent (UK) on 54 / 1
"Don't ask me just how the Wu Ming clan have pulled off this second coup. I only know that their blend of outrageous burlesque and offbeat satire sparkles like a bottle of the best prosecco from a workers'-coop vineyard."

link The Independent (UK) on 54 / 2
"By the collective nature of its fluent voice, Wu Ming subverts traditional literary norms. In contrast with those Structuralist and Marxist academics who have produced reams of speculative theories on the death of the solitary auteur, Wu Ming has acted."

link The Guardian (UK) on 54
"A baggy story of post-war Italy at the height of the cold war. This diverting post-modernist entertainment - about narcotics, the cheap potency of Hollywood, the coming of television, the balance of political power, and how the effects knock on down the line - is skilled in teasing fact and fiction."

link The Philadelphia Inquirer on 54
"The collective effort works remarkably well. 54 is a great, sprawling epic. Serious and satirical, it can be read as a spy novel, gangster thriller and political manifesto, with enough scenes of unsavory characters, drug smuggling, shoot-outs, and doomed love affairs to resemble a Romanzo della Polpa (pulp fiction). But this would be a shallow reading - 54 is much more complicated, and simple. At its heart it is a story of the hopes and expectations we have for ourselves and each other, and how the forces of history, life and love can dash and rebuild these."

link The London Times on 54
"The plot is a formidable feat of imagination that moves restlessly between Bologna, Naples, California, Moscow, Dubrovnik and Marseilles."

link Scotland on Sunday on Q
"This is dazzling; a history of the sects and doctrinal intrigues of the Reformation that is simultaneously an epic novel of espionage, betrayal and brutality; where minute details unfurl into the eddy of events."

link Time Magazine on Q
"The novel is a sweeping saga of the 16th century religious wars touched off by the Reformation. Fast-paced, richly detailed and teeming with hundreds of characters, it throbs with violence, heroism, betrayal and sex."

link The San Francisco Chronicle on Q
"Blissett moves his characters skillfully, pieces on a chessboard whose next square they cannot see, and keeps the reader in suspense until the final, fatal meeting."

Last update: November 9, 2009

Here is Wu Ming's biographical page. And then, in case you want to check out the website...
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Creative Commons LicenseExcept where stated otherwise, the content of this website is licensed under a Creative Common License. You are free to copy, distribute, display, and perform the work. You are also free to make derivative works, under the following commandments: thou shalt give the original author credit; thou shalt not use this work for commercial purposes; If thou alter, transform, or build upon a text, thou shalt distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.