Virtual Buzz by Robin
Camp-free Camping at YYZ
by R.M Vaughan
Mobile Architecture Defies Time and Space
by Si Si Peñaloza
Log Illustrated, April issue,
2000, New Zealand
'I have no memory of a world
devoid of coloured dots chasing each other across a screen.
I was toggling a joystick before I learned to read.'
-- JC Hertz, Joystick Nation.
Joyriding in the Land Time
Forgot is a three part work made for Yorkshire Sculpture
Park, UK; Kunstraum Innsbruck, Austria; and the internet.
The installation in Innsbruck displays a typically comic crash
between a tarmac ramp and a tent on wheels printed with a
videogame rendition of the Grand Canyon. The on-line videogame
flippantly tempts you to steal a car and joyride it into a
digital version of Yorkshire Sculpture Park that looks suspiciously
primeval. The installation in the Park looks as if videogame
tents have hitched a ride to visit their country cousins but
stopped dead in their tracks when they realised they were
over-dressed for the occasion. Scratch the surface, however,
and what you find is an exploration of the relationship between
the videogame landscape and the country estate.
Through KIT's exploration of
videogame landscape, the work encompasses an interest in travel
both as a quest, and as an escape. This seems particularly
apt when we see that 'virtual' contacts made through the internet
are actually encouraging people to travel to meet 'In Real
Life'. We live not, as feared, in a world where life is conducted
solely at a computer terminal, but one in which computers
and the internet are integrated into our physical environment
and are part of our daily lives. Our need for movement, travel
and portability now seems as evident as our dependence on
Level 01: The Pitched
four tents in YSP explore the many genres and forms of Western
culture that have played with the idea of searchingfor a lost
place. An unpolluted, uncorrupted and often untechnologized
landscape or space that is apparently just waiting, ready
to be inhabited by our heroic frontiers-people, transgressing
the supposed cultural norms to look beyond what is observable
and to thus chase what is often referred to as a dream or
Post Space Program (a watershed
mark in projected Western consciousness), a cultural trajectory
that reoriented 'utopia' as an external space to both body
and earth can be traced. Once again, if we look at the predominant
trajectories of technological endeavour over the past twenty-five
years, the two that have reigned in our collective consciousness
are the Space Program and the VR program. It is no coincidence
that both of these pursuits locate the desired state beyond
the realm of what is now anachronistically called human's
physical boundaries. Thus read VR as an attempt to escape
the body and the Space Program as an attempt to escape the
planet. Technology building up speed to achieve what Mark
Dery calls 'an escape velocity'. A drive to colonise a new
'non place', this being the etymological meaning of the word
Joyriding In The Land Time
Forgot sites the movie Jurassic Park as a place,
a lost island paradise that has its innocence reinverted and
reconstructed via technological means in the attempt to produce
the mythical innocence of the lost beast, in this case the
Level 02: Descent into
The on-line game begins with a journey. To enter into
the game and thus the work you are offered only one option.
Steal the videogame car and joyride it, with police in hot
pursuit. In an attempt to outpace them you lose control of
the car and crash. It is in the loss of control inherent in
the crash that the technologies of travel fuse with the reality
of momentum and physical location.
An explosion occurs in which
the player is thrown from the driving game into an adventure
game. Whilst elements of the Sculpture Park are recognisable
they are fused with pre-human Jurassic Park jungles,
rock and primeval swamps in a limbo land, half game, half
Park. This fusion creates a kind of warped deja vu when you
enter the Park in person. On the surface, the second half
of the on-line game is concerned mostly with the retrieval
of evidence confirming that you have crashed a stolen car.
As you travel through the grounds you begin to realise that
you are only finding evidence to recreate your innocence in
locations which have monuments or buildings. These relics
or 'fabriques' are part of the Bretton Hall estate (in which
Yorkshire Sculpture Park lies) which has been updated and
renewed by successive fashion-conscious generations of land
owners throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. The purpose
of the monuments, such as the Greek Temple or the Obelisk,
are similar to landscapes used in the Tekken videogame.
Level 03: Jurassic Sculpture
Backdrops such as the Acropolis, the Arctic, Venice
and the Painted Desert allude to qualities such as tranquillity,
wisdom, antiquity, civilisation and beauty, and as such give
the game or the garden an authenticity, a faked history. Such
was the fashion for symbolic displays of virtue that when
solitude was seen as virtuous, some estates went to the extreme
of hiring an actor to live as a hermit. Within 19th century
gardens these locations were designed to punctuate the naturalised
landscape. In both games and gardens they operate as focal
and view points to break the journey with a sense of arrival,
as a focus of contemplation, stages of a life story, or backdrops
for role-play and narrative. This assertion is also touched
upon in The History of Garden Design, edited by Mosser &
Teyssot, 'beyond their intrinsic poetry is the essentially
cultural role of the fabriques. Whether it be an antique Tholos,
a Chinese Bridge or a Gothic Keep, all are perceived as emblematic
objects which speak of a distant country, or a past era'.
Playing the on-line videogame
both illuminates and shifts our relationship to the Park.
The Austrian installation removed the reference points yet
again as one travelled through the projected nature of YSP
whilst considering the ramp in the gallery and thoughts of
Evil Knieval jumping across the mortal (combat) void onto
bright green pixelated turf. A journey from the YSP to Austria
and to the ramp, which as metaphor to an internet server,
gives us the cross platform leap into the beyond; a stunt
worth stealing a car for.
by Robyn Usher
The Christchurch Press, March
15, 2000, New Zealand
Joyriding in The Land Time
Forgot: an installation by KIT; and Red Bird Paparazzi:
photographs by Mitch Robertson at the Physics Room until March
If you go down to the woods
today you are probably in the minority because today virtual
reality can take you there so much more easily. In this enjoyable
installation KIT, a collaboration of artists from Britain,
Canada, and Austraila have taken virtual experience and turned
a Jurassic Park video game on its head creating some sense
of reality from artificiality.
The show is a buzz. Low light
levels ensure the need for a notice on the door announcing
that the gallery is, in fact, open. The large space of the
Physics Room has been opened up completely, the windows screened
over, the floor covered in a thick letter of bark chips, and
three softly glowing pup tents erected. Computerised voices
whisper instructions: "program flight mode", or
"you have limited invulnerability" while sci-fi
Maybe it's Tracey Emin's influence,
but tents seem to be in vogue in contemporary art practice.
This show, its tents printed with luxuriant jungle imagery
downloaded from the video game, is a nice contrast with Layla
Rudneva-Mackays's Springsummetcollection, a minimalist
tent piece in the same gallery last year.
Significant for contemporary
practice is the use of current technology in the creation
of the exhibition as well as in the imagery. These artists
found the Physics Room through its website, contacted the
management via e-mail, and display their web addresses prominently
in accompanying literature.
So, virtual reality rules.
While you're there check out Mitch Robertson's fake red bird
which has been filmed on location in a high key coloured world.
Co-starring a gnome, a sunflower, and cemetery statuary, Robertson
resourcefully reworks the pop art aesthetic.
at YYZ by R.M. Vaughan
Eye Newspaper, June 03, 1999,
Every time I drag myself to
my local YMCA, there's a happy poster asking me to donate
money to help send a kid to camp. Why the YMCA thinks it's
not only feasible, but actually healthy, to introduce children
to a premature state of embittered cultural sarcasm and knowing
ennui is beyond me, but they're the experts.
When I was a kid, I did not
understand camp. "Why are all the grown-ups laughing?"
I wanted to know. I understood, indeed sought, mysteries and
the dreamiest suspensions of disbelief. I sought self-hypnosis,
fantasy, even childish danger -- the mortal enemies of camp.
The artist collective known
as KIT has created an installation for YYZ's Artist Outlet
that will be widely (and mistakenly read as campy spectacle.
But what Joyriding in The Land Time Forgot really
offers is nothing less than a quick step into Ali Baba's magic
cave. Granted, KIT has worked in all the necessary elements
for a campy show. First off, the installation is comprised
of four pup tents arranged in a circle on the floor, each
containing a glowing light. It's a camp, get it?
Visuals lifted from a Jurassic
Park videogame have been transferred onto the tent fabric
(one point each for pop-culture referencing and toy/game imagery);
spooky/banal audiotaped warnings are whispered from hidden
speakers (two points for illusion and faux horror); and cheesy,
ominous music plays continuously (anything cinematic is inherently
camp). That much-loved installation art war-horse -- stuff
on the floor! -- is not forgotten either.
What cheers me about this assemblage
is how well it all works -- despite my unfortunate overexposure
to its familiar elements. I've spent some time trying to puzzle
out why this exhibit, the kind I would ordinarily walk in
and out of without a blink, strikes me as meaningful. Again,
I have to return to the props at hand.
The Jurassic Park images,
despite their pedestrian origins, are carefully selected and
gorgeously reproduced on the fabric of the tents. The tents
give off warm orange, red and yellow light, and the primeval
forest scenes remind me of the magical effects generated by
matte paintings in '50s Sinbad and Jules Verne adventure films.
The whispered texts -- offering
such advice as "Don't tell the guard where you have been,"
and "Fly behind the clouds to find your homeland"
-- are not, thankfully, the usual "My subjectivity resists
your linear conflations" moanings and groanings people
seem so compelled to commit to tape. You walk by the tents
feeling that you are eavesdropping on the late stages of a
ghost story, or the rules to an elaborate, secret game.
The soundtrack initially strikes
one as humorous, but gradually becomes unsettling. Lifted
from the videogame, the score repeats the same menacing introductory
bars in an incantory loop -- an overture to a symphony that
never starts. The listener is left in a state of perpetual
readiness, waiting for the rising action to begin.
As for the stuff on the floor,
at least it smells pretty. Covered in a half-foot of aromatic
wood chips, the gallery triggers instant sense-memories of
cookout fires and crunchy forest hikes.
Joyriding in The Land Time
Forgot should be shown to art students as a primer on
how to make art that critically engages popular culture while
transcending its contagious cynicism. By attending to the
senses of touch, sound, sight and smell, KIT has created a
work that not only comments on the seductiveness of pop culture
but actually is seductive. As I sat down on the cedar chips,
listening to the weird murmurs and firelight colors, all I
wanted was a marshmallow and a stick.
Defies Time and Space by
Si Si Peñaloza
Now Newspaper, May 20, 1999, Canada
I'm sitting across from a guy
who won't tell me his name. In fact, he goes by different
names depending on what country he's in. It all starts with
mistaking a YYZ postcard for an anonymous rave invitation.
Joyriding in The Land Time Forgot, it reads. The
graphics and font all scream underground free-for-all. Cool
enough. More importantly, what am I going to wear? But
Joyriding is not a party, and KIT is definitely not a
DJ. The three core members of KIT who hail from Montreal,
Melbourne and Manchester, initially met in Quebec in 1993.
Now, beyond them, scores of architects, writers, programmers
and designers assemble and disperse depending on the project.
As a collaboration in constant flux, KIT negates a single-gendered,
identifiable authorship. Refusal to disclose the sex and physical
location of members both intrigues and infuriates the public.
The KIT collective speculates about what it means to
have no more space left to discover. Is it possible to go
beyond the physical frontier? Is technology itself the only
infinity left to colonize?
KIT detests digital artists'
promise of cheap thrills and easy interactivity, where all
choices become equal and chance is cancelled out. "The
notion that art can be interactive is silly," says the
unidentified man. "It's a sell word." KIT asks more
relevant questions: is cyberspace public space? Are online
communities actual communities?
In the installation at YYZ,
KIT has printed scenes from the Internet video game Jurassic
Park onto canvas. The fabric is then hung on tent frames set
on small black wheels. The room is dark. The only light originates
inside the tents, giving the images a computer-screen glow.
The promise of a supersaturated digital future is projected
through a pixellated canvas of primeval greens and sediment
reds. The man across the table speaks in idioms of joysticking,
meta-crashes and escape velocity. KIT takes nothing as a fact
of history. "It's about searching for a lost world and
the drive to colonize an unpolluted, uncorrupted landscape,"
he says, sipping a glass of orange juice.
The online game starts by tempting
the player to steal a car for a joyride. The screen evokes
a digital realm of fantasy, a magical possibility of unlimited
play. Movement is promised, a crash inevitable. We're suddenly
conscious of the present as history -- of prehistory as represented
by a video game. The installation explores the interplay between
natural and virtual, first by removing the landscape from
reality, then by removing it from virtuality.
KIT's overall fixation is the inevitability of disaster.
To launch a ship is to already capsize it, to innovate a locomotive
is to invent derailment. To fly is to crash, to move catastrophe.
Locating symmetries between the daily and disaster, KIT inverts
everyday perspective, framing a stillborn future and calling
it fiction. "Both Joyriding and COTIS (Cult
Of The Injector Seat) celebrate loss of control -- of
catharsis within the crash. It's a reaction against posthumanist
ideas of trying to eschew the body or eject the self from
it. We try to reinsert the body in the crash scenario."
The tents and COTIS freight container are examples
of mobile architecture, of an international unit of space.
In the design of our infrastructure, escape routes are hypothetical.
KIT obsesses about notions of elevator as death trap, or library
as tinderbox conflagration waiting to go up. Absolute safety
is as frivolous as absolute escape.
He pulls out a graphic of a flying pod. "We're working
with aerospace at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology
on a prototype that would actually function. If the structural
integrity of the building is compromised, this pod would leave
the building -- either underground or parasitically jumping
from the host to another site." "We're also engineering
airbag suits," he says without guile. "You could
walk into this suit and jump 25 storeys as a real way of leaving
a building. We've got people lined up who want to be our first
human projectile. An Australian council awarded KIT a research
grant to work out the real thing for September 2001,"
he says, smiling at me.
If you went into a KIT exhibit,
there'd be no sign of its members' number, nationality, race
or gender, which explains why I can't find out who I'm talking
to. "We're getting away from a single creator or author"
he says obliquely. "Like the idea of the name, KIT --
something made up of a plethora of parts, from a range of
bits." Despite an incognito policy that scares off curators,
alienates dealers and maddens the media, KIT boasts an extensive
bibliography and impressive exhibit list. The collective collapses
the wall between art and industry, behaving more like enterprising
professionals than artists. Through symbiotic cooperation,
KIT masters a unique vision and equilibrium.
Liberated through obscurity, KIT has detached itself
from aesthetic preoccupations. Joyriding reveals
the grounding of art and its boundaries. KIT makes a provocative
suggestion: free expression is not truly free if you are steeped
in identity. The collective's distancing strategy defies an
art market that's based on egos and unique, collectible objects.
Without a name, KIT is somehow unfit for
public consumption. And subordinate to its desire for collectivity,
KIT relinquishes civic responsibilities associated with the
work of art.