16 Minds – Karen Eliot and Second Life



Karen Eliot is a multiple identity, a shared nom de plume that anyone is welcome to use for activist and artistic endeavours. The name was developed in order to counter the male domination of that movement, the most predominant multiple-use name previously being Luther Blissett.

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. The purpose of many different 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 identiy, 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.  “When one becomes Karen Eliot one’s previous existence consists of the acts other people have undertaken using the name. 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.”

Kare Elliot is a virtual character and the group of people working under the pseudonym are “creating the internet as a cultural space (…) and occupy it criticaly”. With their work Karen Elliot wants to point out the uncontrollablity of reproduction in the internet as well as internet as a media of art. The pseudonym exists since 1985.

The work of Karen Elliot questions following: What does the internet as a media of art demand? Where is the border between virtual and “real life”? How does the Internet change our social life?

With their work 16 minds  Karen Eliot point out, that their is still a human being behind an avatar. She wants to remind people that what we are doing in the internet effects our real life and has consequences outside our online social-networks. The real-time feedback of what people do in the internet effects not only our avatar in the virtual space.



The project uses the online game Second Life, to expose real humans as virtual objects in the art exhibition space. In Second Life avatars are going to be paid for standing still and answering personal questions, which are asked by the same script that pays a certain amount of (real) money every 10 minutes. Caught in this situation the question about the “real” person behind the digital image comes up. Furthermore it becomes clear that this is a surveillance situation and the value that is paid for is the information people reveal.

Every 2 minutes the avatars have to answer personal questions like: “how do you feel right now?” “What are you thinking about in this moment?” “are you more honest in anonymous virtual space?”. If avatars stop answering the questions they will automatically be kicked out and not able to earn further money. Sentences on the walls of the cube explain the installation.

In this way I am observing the minds of real people sitting in front of their computer screens trying to “earn money online”. I pay for their emotions and thoughts, get more or less insights and show them directly in an exhibition.

The screen is shown live as a projection in exhibition space, the real visitors can communicate with the avatars over a video/audio stream.

The pseudonym Karen Eliot can be seen as the opposing female part of the art collective Luther Blissett or Wu Ming.

Follow Karen Eliot on her web page or on facebook

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