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
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.