Joyride In Land Time Forgot



Joyridden by Mary Sergeant  

Virtual Buzz by
Robin Usher 

Camp-free Camping at YYZ
R.M Vaughan  

Mobile Architecture Defies Time and Space
Si Si Peñaloza



Joyridden by Mary Sergeant
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 computers.

Level 01: The Pitched Journey

The 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 fantasy realm.

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 'utopia'.

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 dinosaur.

Level 02: Descent into the Underworld

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 Park

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.



Virtual Buzz 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 18.

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 sounds pulse.

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.



Camp-free Camping at YYZ by R.M. Vaughan
Eye Newspaper, June 03, 1999, Canada

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.



Mobile Architecture 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.

Relevant Questions

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.

Disaster Inevitable

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.

Structural Integrity

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.

Distancing Strategy

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.