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Orientation for the Use of a Context and the Context for the Use of an Orientation

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 for less problematic than with human beings.

Reprinted in SMILE 11, Glasgow 1989