Neoism is a parodistic -ism. It refers both to a specific subcultural network of artistic performance and media experimentalists, and, more generally, to a practical underground philosophy. It operates with collectively shared pseudonyms and identities, pranks, paradoxes, plagiarism and fakes, and has created multiple contradicting definitions of itself in order to defy categorization and historization.


Definitions of Neoism were always disputed. The main source of this is the undefinable concept of Neoism which created vastly different, tactically distorted accounts of Neoism and its history. Undisputed, however, are the origin of the movement in the late 1970s Canada. It was initiated by Hungarian-born Canadian performance and media-artist Istvan Kantor (aka Monty Cantsin) in 1979, in Montreal. At around the same time the open-pop-star identity of Monty Cantsin was spread through the Mail Artist David Zack [1] (born New Orleans, June 12, 1938, died presumably in Texas ca. 1995) with the collaboration of artists Maris Kudzins and performance artist Istvan Kantor.

Schisms followed in the mid-1980s. Questions and concerns arose about whether the "open pop star" Monty Cantsin moniker was being overly associated with certain individuals. Later, writer Stewart Home sought to separate himself from the rest of the Neoist network, manifesting itself in Home's books on Neoism as opposed to the various Neoist resources in the Internet. In non-Neoist terms, Neoism could be called an international subculture which in the beginning put itself into simultaneous continuity and discontinuity with, among others, experimental arts (such as Dada, Surrealism, Fluxus and Concept Art), punk, industrial music and electropop, political and religious free-spirit movements, science fiction literature, 'pataphysics and speculative science. Neoism also gathered players with backgrounds in graffiti and street performance, language writing (later known as language poetry), experimental film and video, Mail Art, the early Church of the Subgenius and gay and lesbian culture. Neoism then gradually transformed from an active subculture into a self-written urban legend. As a side effect, many other subcultures, artistic and political groups since the late 1980s have—often vaguely—referred to or even opposed Neoism and thereby perpetuated its myth.

Since the gradual disappearance of Neoism in the 1990s, brief offshoots have appeared including The Seven By Nine Squares, Stewart Home's frequent use of Karen Eliot (as well as Sandy Larson, Luther Blissett (nom de plume) and others) to replace Monty Cantsin as the embodiment of the open pop star concept. "This project... confuses the restrictions that both define and delimit individual identity.... Changing details, such as biographical particulars... are usually considered indispensable [sic] in securing the signature of an individual."[2]


Neoism, as a name for a different context, was coined in 1914 by the American satirist Franklin P. Adams as a parody of modern arts.[3] Sydney J. Bounds used the word as the name of a planet in his 1977 science fiction story No Way Back.[4] In 1979, the name was reinitiated by Istvan Kantor (aka Monty Cantsin) for a subcultural -ism that grew out of the mail art network, particularly those parts of mail art that emphasized—rather than the exchange of artwork—alternative lifestyles, pranks, practical jokes, the use of pseudonyms and experimentation with identity [citation needed] In 1980 Monty spent two weeks at mail artist Ginny Lloyd's San Francisco Storefront.,[5] a one year living art project holding art events and installations in a storefront window. He lived in the space, compiled writings and launched his Blood Campaign.

Centered on the idea of the "open pop star" or multiple persona Monty Cantsin in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, New York, New York and Baltimore, Maryland in the United States [citation needed]. Neoism quickly spread to other places in America, Europe and Australia and involved up to two dozens of Neoists. Until the late 1980s and before the mass availability of the Internet, the mail art network continued to be used as the main communication and propaganda channel for Neoism.[6]

Neoists refer to their strategies as "the great confusion" and "radical play". They were acted out in semi-private Apartment Festivals which took place in North America, Europe and Australia between 1980 and 1998 and in publications which sought to embody confusion and radical play rather than just describing it. Consequently, both Neoist festivals and Neoist writing experimented with radical undermining of identity, bodies, media, and notions of ownership and truth. Unlike typical postmodern currents, the experiment was practical and therefore existential. Monty Cantsin, for example, was not simply a collective pseudonym or mythical person, but an identity lived by Neoists in their everyday life.

For these purposes, Neoists employed performance, video, small press publications (such as Smile, the international magazine of multiple origins) and computer viruses, but also food (Chapati), flaming steam irons and metal coat hangers (used as telepathic antennas). Borrowing from Thomas Pynchon, Neoism could be more suitably called an "anarchist miracle" of an international network of highly eccentric persons collaborating, often with extremist intensity, under the one shared identity of Monty Cantsin and Neoism.

In 2004 Neoism was cited by Javier Ruis in response to the National Assembly Against Racism's condemnation of anarchists disrupting the Third European Social Forum session on anti- m and anti-racism in London (PGA Considered As Neoist Invisible Theatre).

In the early 1980s, the Neoist Reinhard U. Sevol founded Anti-Neoism, which other Neoists adopted by declaring Neoism a pure fiction created by Anti-Neoists. The Dutch Neoist Arthur Berkoff operated as a one-person-movement "Neoism/Anti-Neoism/Pregroperativism". Similarly, Blaster Al Ackerman declared himself a "Salmineoist" after Sicilian-American actor Sal Mineo, and John Berndt was credited by Ackerman as having given Neoism the name "Spanish Art," circa 1983. In 1989, following the post-Neoist "Festival of Plagiarism" in Glasgow, Scotland, artist Mark Bloch left mail art and after publishing "The Last Word" remained defiantly silent on Neoism for almost two decades. In 1994, Stewart Home founded the Neoist Alliance as an occult order with himself as the magus. At the same time, Italian activists of the Luther Blissett project operated under the name "Alleanza Neoista".

In 1997, the critic Oliver Marchart organized a "Neoist World Congress" in Vienna which did not involve any Neoists. In 2001, the Professional Association of Visual Artists in the German city of Wiesbaden declared itself Neoist.[citation needed] In 2004 Istvan Kantor received the Governor General's Award, and an international "Neoist Department Festival" took place in Berlin.

Influences on other artists and subcultures

Notable artists who participated in Neoist apartment festivals include early street artist Richard Hambleton, writer and director Kirby Malone, media artist Niels Lomholt, visual artist Peter Below, media artist Bill Vorn and the model and actress Eugenie Vincent.[citation needed]

Neoist "play" such as multiple names, plagiarism and pranks were adopted, frequently mistaken for Neoism proper and by mixing in situationist concepts, by other subcultures such as the Plagiarism and Art Strike 1990-1993 campaigns of the late 1980s (triggered largely by Stewart Home after he had left the Neoist network), Plunderphonics music, the refounded London Psychogeographical Association, the Association of Autonomous Astronauts, the Luther Blissett project, the Michael K Project, the German Communication Guerilla, and, since the late 1990s, by some net artists such as[citation needed]

With their design prank CONSUMER'S REST Lounge Chair,[7][8][9][10] the "one-man artist group" Stiletto Studio,s [fr][11][12][13] established a sub- as well as counter-culturally motivated connection between neoistically determined aspects of cultural consumption criticism and design consumption critical aspects of Neues Deutsches Design (New German Design) [de] at the 9th Neoist Festival in Ponte Nossa in 1985 and at the Festival of Plagiarism in Braunschweig's University of Art in 1988.[14][15][16] They also engaged in media consumption-critical public relations work in neoist collaborations and conspirations, especially with Neoism's foremost therrorist tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE (cit.: "Neoism is a prefix and a suffix with no substance in between"[17]) on the aspect of Interpassivity, a neoist term coined by Stiletto. Since 1988 they had been consulted by Gordon W. [de] on a regular, from 1994 on predominatly interpassive basis as antineoist nutritionists. In 1995 Stiletto Studio,s presented LESS function IS MORE fun as a post-neoist special waste sale of design-defuncts in the Spätverkauf project store by Laura Kikauka at the Volksbühne Berlin.[18][19][20][21]

Other artists who explicitly if vaguely credit Neoism are The KLF, Luther Blissett, Alexander Brener/Barbara Schurz, Lee Wells and Luke Haines (of The Auteurs and Black Box Recorder). The contemporary Dutch Artist Thomas Raat created a series of artworks based on Neoist manifestos and photographic documents.[22]

Neoism is also mentioned briefly in David O. Russell's 2005 film I Heart Huckabees. Dustin Hoffman's character says the word under his breath in response to Jason Schwartzman's experience to "the blanket thing," which is a method of understanding the universe derived from being zipped up in a body bag.[citation needed]

The California-based tech-pop band Brilliant Red Lights also applies the word in the song "Neoism," the first track off their second album, Actualism. The band imagines a literal—albeit applicable—definition of the word, defining it as "the culture of the new."[citation needed]

In 2017, Istvan Kantor was featured in hiphop artists Future and The Weeknd's music video Coming Out Strong, prominently showing a tattoo of the word "NEOISM" on his head.[citation needed]


This section is a candidate for copying over to Wikiquote using the Transwiki process.

"Neoism is a prefix and a suffix with no substance in between" - tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE

"Neoism is a movement to create the illusion that there's a movement called Neoism." "Come, join us. We want war with you." - John Berndt

"If Neoism didn't exist, we would have to NOT create it" - Artemus Barnoz

"It is not a matter of describing Neoism but of abolishing" - Luther Blissett

"Neoism doesn't exist except in the reactions it creates" - Roberto Bui/ Wu Ming Yi

"Time is not money and we have plenty of it" - Kiki Bonbon

"Plagiarism is Necessary. Progress Implies It. NO MORE MASTERPIECES!" - Karen Eliot

"Neoisms not just for Xmas, it's for life!" - Stewart Home

"We are the Neoists, do NOT listen to us" - Monty Cantsin

"Neoism is conspiracy errorism" – Stiletto Studio,s


Selected books

See also


  1. ^ Kantor, Istvan (editor). Amazing Letters: The Life and Art of David Zack, 2010, The New Gallery Press, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
  2. ^ Priest, Eldritch. Boring Formless Nonsense: Experimental Music and the Aesthetics of Failure. Bloomsbury Academic Publishing Plc, London, 2013: 216–17.
  3. ^ Franklin P. Adams, 'The Neo-Neoism', in: By and Large, Doubleday 1914, p. 82, facsimile at
  4. ^ Philip Harbottle (ed.), The Best of Sydney J. Bounds, vol. 2: The Wayward Ship and other stories, Cosmos Books, 2003, ISBN 1-58715-517-6, p. 190, [1]
  5. ^ Lloyd, Ginny. Storefront: A Living Art Project. 1984. Fault Press.
  6. ^ Kramer, Florian and Home, Stewart. Words Made Flesh: Code, Culture, Imagination, Rotterdam: Media Design Research, Piet Zwart Institute, Willem de Kooning Academy Hogeschool Rotterdam, 2005
  7. ^ Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. "Stiletto Studios". Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 11 November 2022.
  8. ^ "Stiletto Studios. Melina, the artist's daughter... - 100 Objects from Century of the Child". Archived from the original on 2016-12-21.
  9. ^ "Berlin, les avant-gardes du mobilier".
  10. ^ "AdA Object Talk: Stiletto, Short Rest | ZFBK". Archived from the original on 2018-06-27.
  11. ^ "Stiletto, who describes himself as an ‘antipreneurship expert’ and the ‘head of one-man artist group Stiletto Studio,s’, started Design Vertreib (Vertreib is a made-up term, deliberately misspelling Vertrieb (distribution), in order to take on the meaning of Vertreibung (expulsion – as in ... from a consumer's paradise) as a deconstructive means of processive disturbation. Also Vertreib is the second half of the German word Zeitvertreib (pastime, diversion). It also recurs to one of Duchamp's explanations of Readymades as pastimes attempting the disposal of art.) in the 1990s as an undertaking for ‘Beleuchtungskörperbau’. Building upon the Readymade principle of his 1980s design-critical artworks, he follows a modular construction principle, relying almost entirely on pre-existing standard industrial components, that he describes as ‘liberated from design’." (in: Vitra Design Museum: Atlas of Furniture Design, Weil am Rhein, Germany, 2019, on CONSUMER'S REST Lounge Chair by Stiletto (Stiletto Studio,s), page 726)
  12. ^ "TV diner" (PDF) (in German).
  13. ^ "TV diner (rough english translation without illustrations)" (PDF).
  14. ^ Kunstforum International, Kunstperiodikum, vol. 82, 1986, Das deutsche Avantgarde-Design - Möbel, Mode, Kunst und Kunstgewerbe, ed.: Christian Borngräber, pp. 130-143 (chapter "Stiletto")
  15. ^ Birgit Richard: Subkultureller Stil contra "Lifestyle" im Design. Zu den komplexen Verflechtungen von Jugendästhetik und Design, pp. 74ff - 84ff [here especially explanations and illustrations of: Neue Deutsche Gemütlichkeit by Stiletto] in Stefan Lengyel and Hermann Sturm: Design Schnittpunkt Essen / Design Lines Meet in Essen, (text: de/en), Verlag Ernst & Sohn, Berlin, 1990, ISBN 3-433-02539-8 (text document online)
  16. ^ Stewart Home on Stiletto's lecture performance workshop Stealing and Copying as the Highest Form of Creativity in the Fight Against Design on the Festival of Plagiarism at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste Braunschweig, June 8–10, 1988
  17. ^ a b "1997. Neoismus".
  18. ^ QRT [de]:Handelskunst mit Angebots-Sondermüll (special waste offer), announcement and short review of the sales exhibition LESS function IS MORE fun as part of the Spätverkauf project by the artist group Funny Farm (Laura Kikauka and Gordon Monahan) at the Kiosk of the Volksbühne Berlin. (in (030) Magazin, No. 25/1995, [030] Media Verlag, Berlin, December 1995).
  19. ^ "The Triumph of NEOISM".
  20. ^ tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE about the neoist Interpassivity Project TV Hospital, 1994, Akademie der Künste, Berlin, in the entrance of which the phrase "ATTENTION: YOU ARE ENTERING A ZONE OF PSYCHOLOGICAL PLAYFARE! " was boldly warned; project descriptions 177 to 183 ff Seven by Nine Squares homepage
  21. ^ "tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE on neoist interpassivity and Florian Cramer's relationship to neoism in a book review of Florian Cramer's book publication "Anti-Media."" (in German).
  22. ^ "Gallery site on Thomas Raat". Archived from the original on 2009-01-06. Retrieved 2009-12-24.
  23. ^ "Neo-dadaistischer Retro-Futurismus" (in German).
  24. ^ "Text und Spiel".
  25. ^ "Text".
  26. ^ "2 the Art Strike Papers and Neoist Manifestos: The Years Without Art Quotes & Sayings with Wallpapers & Posters".
  27. ^ "Stewart Home Quotes (Author of 69 Things to do with a Dead Princess)".