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Multiple names are 'tags' that the avant-garde of the seventies and eighties proposed for serial use. They have taken a number of forms, but are more commonly 'invented personal names' which, their proponents claim, anyone can take on as a 'context' or 'identity'. The idea is usually to create a collective body of artistic works using the 'invented identity'.
The first of these 'collective identities', 'Klaos Oldanburg', was propagated by the British mail artists Stefan Kukowski and Adam Czarnowski in the mid-seventies. A few years later, the American mail artist, David Zack, proposed 'Monty Cantsin' as the name of the 'first open pop-star', a name anybody could use. Factional differences between those using the 'Monty Cantsin' tag resulted in the 'rival' names of 'No Cantsin' and 'Karen Eliot', both of which emerged in the mid-eighties. A number of individuals and groups have independently 'originated' similar concepts. For example, a group centred around Sam Durrant in Boston (USA) proposed 'Bob Jones' as a multiple identity in the mid-eighties.

There have been multiple names for magazines ('Smile' originating in England in 1984) and pop groups ('White Colours' first proposed in England in 1982).

Multiple names are connected to radical theories of play. The idea is to create an 'open situation' for which no one in particular is responsible. Some proponents of the concept also claim that it is a way to 'practically examine, and break down, western philosophic notions of identity, individuality, value and truth'.

NB. This text dates from the late eighties; that is to say. prior to the 1990s Luther Blissett Project, the most interesting and successful deployment of the concept to date.


Karen Eliot performanceKaren Eliot performance

Karen Eliot performanceKaren Eliot performance

Karen Eliot performanceKaren Eliot performance

The above shows two people doing a Karen Eliot performance. They must argue with each other until the audience walks out, by repeating the phrase 'my name is Karen Eliot' in an attempt to prove this is their own 'identity'. The photo was taken by Dave Tiffen in The Parachute Club, Aldershot.