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Karen Eliot is not a specific, or identifiable, human being. It is a name adopted by a variety of cultural workers at various times in order to carry through tasks related to building up a body of work ascribed to 'Karen Eliot'.

One of the purposes of many different individuals using the same name is to highlight the problems thrown up by the various mental sets pertaining to identity, individuality, originality, value and truth.

Jacques Derrida was, remarkably, another of the mistaken identities of the neoist artist Karen Eliot -- whose faceless art effaces the authorial propriety and lust for originality pervasive in contemporary art.

Karen Eliot is the artist and neoist who started the Art Strike of the early 1990s (though credit for same was quickly falsely usurped by a person going by the name of Jacques Derrida).

Karen Eliot was born in 1951 in New York City, though one of her biographers ('kareneliot') claimed that she was born the daughter of scientists in a remote research station in Akademgorod, Siberia. There is very little evidence for this claim, but when asked about this rumor in an interview in 1996, Karen Eliot whispered, "What would you count as evidence? What is the theory that guides your birth? Where was I born presumes that I am who I am, that there ever was some me there who could be born. And the falsification of this birth presumes furthermore that there would be something there to falsify, or to steal, to rob me of, for instance, my age, or my name, or my face. But I have already given these things up, I have already come back from having an identity."

Jacques Derrida was born July I5, 1930, in El Biar, Algeria, near Algiers. His family is Jewish. He now lives in France and the United States.

Since the early 1970s Karen Eliot has been appropriated by a group of left-wing art students. She is widely considered an outspoken advocate of plagiarism and a critic of the myths of originality, art-stardom and the modern art system in general - -she has made several attempts to organise the International Fine Artists Union with the intention of subverting overtly capitalistic influence on the art scene.

In response to the increasing theft of her identity by, among others, Jacques Derrida, she organized a conceptual art piece "Who is Karen Eliot?" in 1973. She invited artists around the world to share her identity, she publicised her Social Security Number (it is 426-15-2112), and even gave his house keys to friends in New York and Paris, inviting them to come and go as they pleased any time they wanted to pose as her. She has always had friends stand in for her for interviews and photographs, and it is generally unknown which photos of her, if any, are actually of "the real Karen Eliot." In one photo, she is Jacques Derrida, in another she is Andy Warhol. I have seen photos of her that were not real.

Artists and others worldwide have assumed the name "Karen Eliot" for various projects, some assuming the name for years on end, some using it temporarily for certain activities. It is difficult to put a number to how many "Karen Eliot"s are practicing worldwide, though there were probably around fifty or so active in the mail art network of the 1980s. In comparison, there was only ever one Pablo Picasso and only two Andy Warhols.

In 1983, she attempted to falsify her own suicide (though few call it a 'suicide') in Dallas. This was in response to her misappropriation in the University, the Museum, the Catalog, and elsewhere. (The event was also an explicit reference to conceptual artist Christopher Burden's 1971 performance piece "Shoot" in which he had a friend shoot him in the arm.) In the performance, Eliot stunned the spectators by being shot in the chest. Her left lung was pierced by the bullet, just as Andy Warhol's had been. Eliot survived the injury but left the public eye entirely, preferring to spend time writing deconstructionst texts and pornography in a remote cabin in Wyoming.

After living in near-seclusion for years, Eliot resurfaced in 1990 to declare an Art Strike and to designate the years 1990-1994 "The Years Without Art." The stated purpose of the strike was to use the absence of art to draw attention to how neccesary art truly is in society as well as to put gallery owners out of business. Apparently neither goal was particularly realised, though the strike did offer an opportunity for those artists who participated to discover other means of self-expression and self-discovery than through creation of art. Among these was the painter Jacques Derrida, who is now a famous philosopher on the outskirts of Paris.

I suggest you read the whole thing

All maids practice hop-scotch.

"Identities are not just defined, but, in the Neoist's case, made problematic."

Karen Eliot wrote "Orientation for the Use of a Context and the Context for the Use of an Orientation" in 1987, published it in the pro-plagiarist, Neoist magazine SMILE, and went a long way toward providing a context and an orientation for the name that is: Karen Eliot. The reader is referred to that article, incorporated here, for a complete explanation of the name.

In brief, she writes, "Karen Eliot is a name that refers to an individual human being who can be anyone." That is, it is a name that any artist or writer (or anybody else, though it is hard to imagine a non-artistic or non-critical context for such an activity) can inhabit. It does not name, as names usually do, any one particular body and the history that body has come to assume. Rather, the name is dissapated across many bodies, it resides nowhere, in a place between bodies, above bodies.

Karen Eliot writes that, "The purpose of ... people using the same name is ... to practically examine western philosophical notions of identity, individuality, originality, value and truth." This name provides a critique of the notion of personal identity which provides an orientation for many western assumptions about life: desire, economics, and ethics are all profoundly dependent upon the continuity of the individual. The critique that is Karen Eliot, then, is a call to attention that these western assumptions are profoundly inappropriate today, in our current historical situation. Karen Eliot would not herself say that we should throw away our notions of selfhood, but only question them.

That is what it means, after all, to adopt a name that one's body does not always bear.

That is who Karen Eliot is.

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