Connection KIT



Connection KIT by Jim Kano  



Connection KIT by Jim Kano
Artichoke Magazine, Spring issue, 1997, Canada

Connection Kit was shown in The New Gallery's roughly-constructed new space. The Bare sandstone walls and half stripped floor worked as a compelling juxtaposition of surface appearances to the hightly-finished materials and concealed technology employed by KIT.

A nineties phenomena, KIT is a collective, based primarily in Britain, which does not define its identity by age, gender, race or profession because all of these classifications change according to who is working on the current project. Whether as in the past (as landscape architects) or in a future project (which includes market prospectors from a London merchant bank), it seems that one of KIT's most salient features is the continual changeover of members which affords a transient identity to the production team. Rather than death of the author, KIT is the authors evading the death mask of the name.

The title of this show appears to stem from ideas related to their previous piece of work, F-USER, an exhibition which took place between a gallery and an amusement arcade in Montreal in which two spaces were used to emphasize the lack of connection between high and low cultural spaces which dealt with technology. For Connection Kit, notions of linkage were played out on many levels, from the absurdly obvious plugging-in of electricity to switch a technology on and off [however simple, switching on electrical current is an interaction not often broached; here it was used as a humorous aside to the question of what constitutes interaction in the age of digital reproduction] to the magnified arena of social control which is the airport.

Airport design for connectiong bodies was used as the set to play out ideas concerned with terrorism and smuggling, focussing on the planting of fear by governmental 'gardners of surveillance'. Connection Kit aimed to highlight how these tactics are used as mechanisms of control at ports of travel - from the airport to the Internet could be opened via an encryption code to which the US Government had the key. [Although the initial attempt failed, the Mark II version has had millions of dollars invested into its development and registers a determination on the part of the government to have unlimited access to citizen communications.]

To expand on this theme, KIT's communications came initially in the form of an airline ticket which was both catalogue and invitation containing instructions about how to behave in the airport space - instruction such as 'leave baggage unattended discreetly at any time' - and invited the audience to traverse the two rooms constructed for the show.

In the first room an anonymous airport sign instructed the participant to pick up an unattended piece of luggage and take it through to the waiting room. Set into the locks of the suitcases were plug-in electrical sockets. In place of a container of goods, the suitcase served as a conductor of flowing (human) energy.

Moving trhough this room and into the waiting room an adroit analogy was constructed between producer and interpreter as participants carried in their cultural baggage to make connections between the points of reference constructed for their viewing. This relationship of co-dependence echoed the relationship between airport control and the terrorist/smuggler; both require each other's presence to enact their strategies.

To support the appearance of these strategies, in the second room a double-jointed, U-shaped counter greeted viewers with 'counter control'. One side of the U suggested a Customs desk where an opened suitcase revealed a TV screen on which a video of holiday souvenirs, clothes, books, cameras, and personal effects endlessly repeated its images, never getting to the bottom of the case. On the other side of the counter another suitcase was positioned amongst the plastic habitat of an airport 'garden' composed of wood chips and silk plants, evoking the notion of hidden baggage. A hole cut through the leather and layers of packed clothing in the planted suitcase revealed a horizontal computer monitor. Ingeniously replacing a wheel on the bottom of the case, a trackball moved the bag's digital contents, playing with notions of travel or movement within airport and terminal.

Viewers were invited to travel within this digital domain to forge a passport by constructing a photograph and keying in information. Parts of what appear to be a bomb appeared in the dialogue box at the edge of the monitor whenever misinformation was fed into the computer. When the passport was completed, viewers were then encouraged to construct the bomb parts. Completing this mission revealed a web page reporting news about a terrorist bombing. Thus, forging a passport (concealing an idenity) revealed components of a bomb which, once constructed, revealed the true identity of the terrorist at a location of virtual geography (the Internet).

Picking up the suitcase again, the viewer moved to the end of the room where a collection of suitcases was placed next to a pile of polythene bags filled with white powder. Both sets of bags emitted smoke, always threatening to go up in flames, but always remaining on the verge of combustion. The pile of suitcases suggested the collected luggage of group tours. The white-powder bags proposed a cocaine or heroin haul. Set side by side, the smoldering piles illustrated two very different forces at work; the burning of drugs as a DEA 'capture spectacle', and the burning suitcases suggesting an incendiary device about to explode. In each case, the strategies of both terrorist and DEA -- the explosion of burning of illicit substances -- collided as media news.

Leading out from each pile was an electrical cable, and here the purpose of the suitcase sockets became apparent. Connecting the suitcase to the cable became the connection between two opposing ideologies. The act of connection completed a circuit which activated identical video projections of a national news desk; one on the suitcases and one on the drug haul. Making the connection, pulled Connection KIT's narrative threads together, drawing them out from a tangle of strategies and subterfuges, as the opposing forces attempted to project themselves into the media via controlled destruction.