Acts Of Negation And Reversal With The Wu Ming Collective

2. 6. 2013 // // Kategorie Randnotizen 2013

I spent this afternoon at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in central London talking about history and fiction with Wu Ming 1 of the Bologna writers collective Wu Ming. We had an appreciative audience. The Wu Ming collective were previously involved in the Luther Blissett Project and their first prank back in 1994 was to send an Italian prime time TV show on a hunt for a supposedly missing (but not actually existing) British artist Harry Kipper; my friends told the Italian media he was last seen in northern Italy heading for the Balkans conflict zone. I pretended to be Harry’s concerned best friend in London and took a TV crew to see a half-demolished house on The Isle of Dogs, which I claimed Harry had lived in before leaving the UK; and to various other sites that I found amusing and for which I invented connections to my non-existent friend Kipper. We got chuckles all the way from the ICA audience with this story, but the most laughs came after I mentioned I’d let the journalists in the TV crew buy me some expensive meals when we took breaks from filming. When Wu Ming 1 added this was at the expense of the Italian tax payer because it was a publicly funded TV station that had entertained me so lavishly, there were roars of mirth.

While it didn’t generate as much laughter, the audience seemed equally interested in our discussion of our research methods, and how historical accuracy and literary technique get balanced out. I was very happy to get Wu Ming 1 to talk at length about 54, my favourite of the group’s novels published in English, and hear him describe some books awaiting English translation. Wu Ming 1 was over to promote a just published English translation of Altai. I’d done an ICA event with Wu Ming 1 and Wu Ming 4 when they were in London in 2009 to promote a translation of Manituana. I last saw Wu Ming 1 and Wu Ming 4 in Bologna in February this year when I was doing a talk on street art at Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna. On that trip to Italy I was whacked out from lack of sleep, an overload of events and too much traveling. After my talk I’d gone on a night time tour of Bologna bars with Wu Ming 1 but long before we’d got through our planned itinerary he’d had to walk me back to my hotel because I was falling asleep on my feet. Wu Ming 1 earlier today reminded me of myself in Bologna in February; he’d been doing six interviews a day in the UK and needed a break. He sat drinking water as I drank whisky in ICA bar after our event. In the end we decided I’d walk him to his hotel in a reversed re-enactment of what we’d done in Bologna a few months before.

Photos: top the Wu Ming collective partying in Bologna, middle Wu Ming 1 relaxing at home with a couple of friends; bottom official portrait of Wu Ming collective.