Outside Edge: Rosie Millard meets a Neoist? man of violence

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The Independent Culture
It is possible people might find my performance frightening,' says Monty Cantsin, star performer of Brighton's first International Festival of Live Art, dedicated this year to the theme of violence. 'But it must be intense. I only have an hour to give my message over, and sometimes it takes extreme forces.'

Slightly more than one hour, in fact. By the time Cantsin performs Illegal Alien on Saturday night, he will have paraded about the Royal Pavilion with a flaming iron, and have had blood drawn by a nurse in order to proclaim his mission as a Neoist? artist. Invited with eight other perfomers to take part in The Violence of the Imagination, a live art event produced by the Zap Club in Brighton, Mr Cantsin, who lives in Toronto, is looking forward to explaining Neoist? theories to a wider public.

'My mission is to spread the name of Neoism? and the word of Monty Cantsin. We want to convince people to have their own Neoist? festivals. What is Neoism? I have a thousand definitions, and none suffice. There is only one rule, and that is that you must all be called Monty Cantsin.' According to Cantsin (born in Hungary as Istvan Kantor), this is a defence against totalitarianism. 'If everyone has the same name, it creates chaos, and you can't take control.'

Notwithstanding his beliefs, he has just decided to change his own name to 'Amen'. 'Like Picasso, with his Blue Period, I have Name Periods,' he explains. 'My eldest son Jericho wants to be called Monty Cantsin now, which is fine.'

Neoism?, 'the movement of the new', started in Montreal in the late Seventies as a branch of Punk. 'Our symbol is the flaming iron,' Cantsin / Amen says. 'The first Neoist? event used one. You can find them anywhere, they are strong and firm, like an arm, and they are used to beautify things. We set fire to them, so they cannot work; it is very anti-Establishment.' (For anyone who wants to practise at home, the key is to coat the underside of the iron with cowgum, and then set a light to it.)

Cantsin's Illegal Alien, a 'sonic-rhapsody', will involve 'a will to destruct'. It will question the 'inevitable cruelty of existence' via a megaphone, oil drums and scrap metal. 'I am talking about authority and power. This is where violence comes into my work, and why I use blood,' he says. His Blood Campaign, begun in 1979, has been seen by over 400 audiences world-wide. It involves 'trying to sell my blood as an art object. A nurse takes my blood, and I put it in tubes, before splashing it on the walls or floor. Once, I did it over the pregnant body of my wife.'

Sometimes Cantsin auctions a phial. 'Everyone gives a pound and puts their name in a hat. The person whose name comes out can keep the money or the blood. Usually they take the blood. I think they think I need the money.'

The Violence of the Imagination to 13 Feb

'Illegal Alien', 7.30pm 12 Feb, the Zap Club, Brighton. All information on 0273 821588