EN LT
ON JANEZ JANŠA Print
Written by Chus Martínez   

[Left to right: Luther Blissett, Janez Janša and Chus Martinez]

My Name Is Janez Janša is a 2012 documentary film about three contemporary artists, one of them the film director, who in 2007 all changed their name to that of Janez Janša, the Prime Minister of Slovenia. A number of way more interesting and earlier previous avant-grade and underground anti-art movements influenced this action including Dadaism, mail art and neoism.

Multiple name concepts – the idea that a single name should be used by a group of individuals- did not play a starring role in the history of Dada. But Hausmann, Grosz, Baader, Herzfelde and Herzfelde’s ‘Christ & Co. Ltd’ achieved more than footnote status in the standard histories of the Berlin avant-garde. Hausmann recollects the founding of this society in “Courier Dada”(Paris 1958): “I took Baader to the fields of Sudende (where Jung then lived), and said to him: ‘All this is yours if you do as 1 tell you. The Bishop of Brunswick has failed to recognize you as Jesus Christ, and you have retaliated by defiling the altar in his church. This is no compensation. From today, you will be President of The Christ Society, Ltd, and recruit members. You must convince everyone that he too can be Christ, if he wants to, on payment of fifty marks to your society. Members of our society will no longer be subject to temporal authority and will automatically be unfit for military service. You will wear a purple robe and we shall organise an Echternach procession in the Potsdamer Platz. I shall previously have submerged Berlin in biblical texts. All the poster columns will bear the words “He who lives by the sword shall perish by the sword”.’”

The idea re-emerged, in a very modified form, more than fifty years after Hausmann made his suggestions to Baader. In the mid-seventies, the British correspondence project Blitzinformation (Stefan Kukowski and Adam Czamowski) circulated a leaflet on ‘Klaos Oldanburgshi’:

“Since the discovery that Oslo Kalundburg, the radio station, is an anagram of Klaos Oldanburg (sic), it has become one of BLITZINFORMATION’s foremost projects to change everyone’s name to Klaos Oldanburg. WE THEREFORE INVITE YOU TO BECOME KLAOS OLDANBURG. The advantages of such an action are too numerous to go into here. IF YOU WISH TO BECOME PART OF THIS INTERNATIONAL PROJECT, PLEASE FILL IN THE FORM BELOW … Please note: SIMPLE KLAOS OLDANBURGSHIP IS ENTIRELY FREE (+ S.A.E.) FILL IN FORM.”

Those who filled in the form were given a number of descent to use with the name – i.e. Klaos Oldanburg XXI (prev. Derek Hart). The use of numbers and indication of a previous name weakens the concept if it is viewed as a means of attacking traditional beliefs about identity.

In 1977, a multiple name concept also emerged among a group of mail artists gathered around what was known as the PORTLAND ACADEMY (Oregon, USA). At the centre of this group were the founder of the Academy, Dr. Al ‘Blaster’ Ackerman and his drinking buddy David ‘Oz’ Zack. In the Autumn of 1977 Zack announced his plan for an ‘open pop-star’ called Monty Cantsin. The idea was that anyone could use the name for a concert and that if enough people did so, Cantsin would become famous – and then unknown performers could take on the identity and be guaranteed an audience. Through the haze of alcohol and dope that permeated the Academy, Zack won converts to his plan to democratise the star system. The first person to perform under the Monty Cantsin banner was the latvian acoustic punk Maris Kundzin. After Kundzin had done a few concerts as Cantsin, the idea caught on and while the Academy continued to exist many of those associated with it used the name for performances. Zack and Kundzin mailed post cards to cultural workers around the world inviting them to become Monty Cantsin; Ackerman kept the ‘Fourteen Secret Masters of the World’ (his prioritised contacts in the MA Network) in touch with what was going on.

These activities were followed by the Luther Blissett and Chus Martinez multiple name projects which were more explicitly revolutionary and anti-capitalist than 1970s and 1980s manifestations of the phenomena. Lutther Blissett was a footballer and Chus Martinez an easy listening guitarist, and so like Janez Janša the name of an existing figure was adopted and transformed.

Nonetheless the Janez Janša, project was clearly a recuperation of more explicitly anti-capitalist multiple name concepts since it was treated more as an artistic than a revolutionary gesture and those involved in the Janez Janša project have never encountered left-communism in all its originality, nor understood the nature of its break with the third international. It provoked a wide range of responses in art circles in Slovenia, and territory best know as the home of the backward ideas of Neue Slowenische Kunst and Slavoj Žižek. From banter to conspiracy. in the documentary My Name Is Janez Janša individuals, artists and academics from all over the world share their thoughts about the meaning and purpose of one’s name from both private and public perspectives. Reasons for changing one’s name are explored as the film draws references from history, popular culture and individual experiences.

Even compared to Blitzinfromation – let alone The Luther Blissett Project – three artists changing their name to that of a Prime Minister is not exactly thrilling. The fact that this caused a sensation in local circles tells us more about the unevenness of revolutionary developments and the backwardness of the art scene than anything else… The film about this name change makes it look more like what is labelled ‘institutional critique’ in art circles than an attempt to overthrow capitalist ‘social ‘relations.