The following artice was written by a body naming itself Karen Eliot, in 1987.
For an explanation of the bizarre locution with which I begin this text, one will probably find it necessary to read the text below, which offers much in the way of an explanation of what the name Karen Eliot is functioning for, standing in for, and trying to achieve in the world today. The author, who is of course offering only a description of the name they bear, demands of the name that it function not according to the typical index that a human name offers in the West today, but funcation rather as a name that can shift from one body to another, can follow a network and reproduce activity within multiple bodies at once, therefore undermining some common philosophical assumptions about personal identity, originality, and uniqueness and the logic of capitalism that is founded thereon. If any author or artist chooses the name Karen Eliot, it is not out of a disrespect of their own body, but rather out of a disrespect of any bizarre genius, fame, or wealth that might be produced by the actions of their body. The refusal of this capitalitic theodicy is the very hope that Karen Eliot, in the article below (but also elsewhere of course), hopes to (dis)embody.
Although the political and ethical implications of the cessation of personal identity are probably perilous in a variety of ways, the economic desire that this so-called 'theory of the self' hopes to enact is a startlingly complete, albeit quick and short, criticism of the logic of capitalism. Without individuality, there can be no genius or hard work that is the particular promise of one body in the face of another. Vacant of this reservoir of earned benefit, one body would never have the right to violate another. This saddles us with the same problem as Karl Marx's communism: how do we gaurantee that ethical violence will not occur? Like the communist, the neoist can only rely on a supreme hope in the goodness of humanity. Capitalism, of course, is saddled not only with the lack of this hope (resulting in a pessimistic view of human nature), but is also forced to bear the weight of ethical violence besides: for the gaurantees which it has historically seeked to enact have shown themselves altogether inadequate. (These issues are further considered, although from a shifted rhetorical perspective in Karen Eliot's intense No More Masterpieces Manifesto.
The text below was reprinted in the 11th issue of the international SMILE Magazine, whose editor described the magazine as, "just the first of a whole new generation of magazines promoting the principle of positive plagiarism. Smile exists solely to encourage other people to take up this principle and to produce their own neo-plagiarist magazines" (Monty Cantsin, in issue number 5).
Orientation for the Use of a Context and the Context for the Use of an Orientation
by Karen Eliot, 1987
Karen Eliot is a name that refers to an individual human being who can be anyone. The name is fixed, the people using it aren't. SMILE is a name that refers to an international magazine of multiple origins. The name is fixed, the type of magazines using it aren't. The purpose of many different magazines and people using the same name is to create a situation for which no one in particular is responsible and to practically examine western philosophical notions of identity, individuality, originality, value and truth.
Anyone can become Karen Eliot simply by adopting the name, but they are only Karen Eliot for the period in which they adopt the name. Karen Eliot was materialised, rather than born, as an open context in the summer of 1985. When one becomes Karen Eliot one's previous existence consists of the acts other people have undertaken using the name. When one becomes Karen Eliot one has non family, no parents, no birth. Karen Eliot was not born, s/he was materialised from social forces, constructed as a means of entering the shifting terrain that circumscribes the 'individual' and society.
The name Karen Eliot can be strategically adopted for a series of actions, interventions, exhibitions, texts, etc.. When replying to letters generated by an action/text in which the context has been used then it makes sense to continue using the context, i.e. by replying as Karen Eliot. However in personal relationships, where one has a personal history other than the acts undertaken by a series of people using the name Karen Eliot, it does not make sense to use the context. If one uses the context in personal life there is a danger that the name Karen Eliot will become over-identified with individual human beings. We are perhaps heading towards the abolition of the personal, perhaps everything is social and the personal (the individual) is just illusion; this area of activity must be debated, examined. However previous experiments with multiple names, such as the Monty Cantsin fiasco, indicate that the failure to differentiate between the personal and the social, and in particular over-identification by certain individuals with the context, is disasterous. The use of multiple names for pop groups and magazines has proved far less problematic than with human beings.
Reprinted in SMILE 11, Glasgow 1989. This text, like any text by Karen Eliot, or reprinted in SMILE Magazine is in the public domain and free of any copyright restrictions.