of C.O.T.I.S. by
Tower of C.O.T.I.S. by
Tower of C.O.T.I.S.
by K.Monfries, B.Dubard, V.Cummins
Tower of C.O.T.I.S. by
Monument Magazine, Issue 29, 1999,
KIT have described their newest
installation – at the Gertrude Gallery, Melbourne –
as black humour from the scripts of the black box.”
Indeed, entering the exhibition space and being confronted
by the mangled corpse of a crashed light-plane is only the
beginning of a queasy interaction which invites the psychic
defence mechanism of uneasy laughter. Having being lulled
into a false sense of security by Alex Gawronski’s whimsical
new exhibit (essentially a toy train crashing ad nauseaum
into a tiny camera which broadcasts the harmless impact on
a large-screen TV), the transition to the large gallery is
something of a jolt to the senses.
KIT’s commentary on the
enduring fascination of crash culture, along with its various
mutations over the course of this spectacular century, have
inspired some grotesque conceptual contraptions, not least
being last year’s M.O.V.I.E (Mechanism Of Virus
Infection Entry) machine: a noisy nasty scanning device for
“implanting” the time and place for your own personal
automated apocalypse. Resembling Darth Vader’s home
entertainment centre, this piece forced the viewer to participate
in (and consequently reflect on) the thin line separating
scientific prognosis and atavistic prophecy. This new exhibition
is best appreciated as both a companion piece and sequel to
this installation, the latest in KIT’s C.O.T.I.S.
(Cult Of The Inserter Seat) series.
C.O.T.I.S. is a fictional
cult dedicated to reintegrating the body into the sanitized
site of the crash. Each project searches for the ultimate
fusion between humans and technology in order to invert the
seemingly innocent call for a “return to the earth.”
They believe that the scattered corporeality of impact zones
produce a charged space in which it becomes possible to retrace
what it means to be mortal in the millennial moment. By interrogating
the Enlightenment logic behind “air traffic control”
C.O.T.I.S. sift through the glitches and the mediated-mourning
of crash culture in order to find what they describe as “scars
of other possibilities.”
Inverting J.G. Ballard’s
statement that we are all looking for a vertical way out of
here, KIT have harnessed a healthy fear of flying with their
own idiosyncratic take on our culture’s obsession with
transcendence through technology. Their self-confessed black
humour is based just as much on Newton than on Baudrillard:
what wishes for escape velocity must come down. With this
in mind, peering into the shattered husk of the plane provokes
an uncanny sense of vertigo; an empathetic telescoping of
someone’s unfortunate past with your own uncertain future.
It is the attendant matrix of erotic fusion and metaphysical
confusion which is ironized by the KIT crew.
The detached wings and tail
bracket the crushed fuselage, and have been upholstered with
canvas digitally printed with aerial shots of the countryside.
These photos were taken by KIT from 20,000 feet, and one of
the world’s largest printers was commissioned to print
the results onto the material. As with the M.O.V.I.E.
machine, the co-ordinates of an implanted crash are sketched
both onto the terrain and the plane, suggesting that terminal
velocity is the inevitable trajectory of our accelerated culture.
KIT believe that the army of experts which descend on the
crash-site perform the crucial role of containing the accident
in an “epistemological embrace.”
The C.O.T.I.S. project is thus a brutal response
to the fetishistic compulsion to re-assert control over technology
through the public reconstruction of the crashed aircraft.
In such circumstances, finding the black box becomes the key
to unlocking the secret of the catastrophe, a media ritual
which must be observed properly in order to successfully exorcise
the ghosts trapped within the machine. The painstaking efforts
of forensic scientists are thus reinterpreted by KIT as part
of a totemic economy against the debt we owe the Accident.
Better to pre-programme the end than be held ransom by an
Bordering on belated snuff,
this new exhibit displays a raw imminence, and seems acutely
aware of its affinity with Warhol’s, Ballard’s
and Kiefer’s perspectives on catharsis, community and
the crash. The slurred black box soundtrack, coupled with
the exposed viscera of the plane’s wiry intestines,
serves to highlight the absence of flesh in this fatal equation.
What lines of flight are possible, when the flight itself
leads to the heart of the accident?
Espace Magazine, September issue, 1999, Canada
"Clearly more media-savvy
than the average bear.." I muse as I listen to a member
of the "KIT" collective (which has collaborated
since 1992) describe the group's concerns with concealing
the personal voice and appearance identity of its members
from the press, and the efforts by journalists to reveal that
which is so playfully hidden. Who can resist such a game?
Members of the Ku-Klux Klan
or the Fratelli della Misericordia kept their faces
well hidden from the camera and the public by wearing masks
to conceal their identity. But these individuals subscribed
to rather extreme social and religious views. KIT on the other
hand appear to avoid parading their individual identities
as an inherent strategic component of their art practice.
In a society and a community
where the measurable and otherwise quantifiable is a necessary
operating component, any hidden properties are likely to create
unease. KIT, apparently very fond of acronyms, titled the
Gertrude St work C.O.T.I.S. (Cult of the inserter
seat), an acronym which KIT tellingly has to share with the
U.K. organisation 'Confederation of tape services'. There
just isn't enough code to go around, even acronyms are having
Acronyms are of course the language
of officialdom and de-personalised, perhaps even dehumanised
administrations. The KIT use of C.O.T.I.S. provides
a small clue as to the possible strategy of the work- a politicised
critique of structural domains perhaps? Artists have taken
on at least some of the practices which had in earlier times
been the combined tasks of the village elder and the village
idiot: wisdom and irreverent, innocent satire.
a work, produces many conceptual nodes of entry to a matrix
of concerns that links the contemporary condition of a heavily
technology augmented society.I wanted to discover, before
contemplating the specifics of C.O.T.I.S., what else
KIT had produced since 1992, so I decided to search the web.
My search produced no hits for these rather elusive artists,
but gives us a great view into the kind of society which KIT
is addressing with its work. Here is an extract of headings
returned by my favourite search engine:
* kitcar.com has been the Internet's
premier and largest kit car information mall
* Wholesale electronics components and educational kits
* A legendary timepiece with its wagging tail pendulum and
moving eyes, the Kit- Cat Clock has brightened many a wall/home
for over 50 years.
* Fyrst USA First Aid Sports Medicine Kit for Athletic Injuries
* The Resellers Source Kit
* Life Kit, Disaster survival kits for the first 72 hours
* The GHB Exothermic Experimental Kit
* Virtual Frog Dissection Kit Version 2.0
* Immigration, citizenship, visa, green card, legal, kits
* Hallelujah West-Survival Kit
* Ultimate Survival Kit. Perfect for taking along on hikes,
camping trips, fishing and canoeing. (Keep one in your car
and one in your house for emergency use).
So, nothing to direct to a site
on this collaborative group of artists who dragged the fuselage
of a crashed small passenger plane into 200 Gertrude Street.
And yet a lot of context which informs the work C.O.T.I.S.
Mortality, survival, legality, emergency, dollars are
all terms prompting a relationship with the issues raised
by this peaceful, dead aeroplane in a gallery.
The perverse shrine constructed
by C.O.T.I.S. (aka KIT ) is a combination of the
"readymade" (or more correctly: Industrial junk)
fuselage and some lovingly made "Phantom limbs".
Wing and tail sections which, due to their obviously diminished
scale, disconnectedness from the body and upholstery unsuited
to the utility we expected of the body before its demise,
might be pregnant with satire or desire.. we will have to
wait and see. The upholstery reminds of Hadrian Pigotts "Instrument
of Hygiene (case 1)", from 1995 where the artist placed
a porcelain washbasin, some copper plumbing fittings and two
cakes of soap into a plushly red-velvet upholstered, fitted
case. The case might have held some unusual musical instrument
until it displayed it's contents of fetish.
At least two more British artists
connect with C.O.T.I.S. in quite intimate ways. The
first comparison is perhaps a little obvious: the carcass
of a plane which, as much as any mechanical entity can, had
died- and the lovingly made superbly detailed "Dead Dad"
(1996-7) sculpture of a nude adult male, by Ron Mueck. The
other example I wanted to mention is Jonathan Parsons "Carcass",
a dissected map (all the roads have been removed from the
original map with what must have been surgical precision)
of "Greater London", displayed in an acrylic case.
Parsons "Carcass" is fragile beyond belief- an entire
circulatory system of a great entity is a challenge between
gravity and millimetre-wide strips of tenacious paper.
Ok, you get something of an
idea how it all fits together, but I've not yet mentioned
two features of the work: the first is a soundtrack, the second
aerial photography of crash-site images printed on the upholstery
used to cover the wing and tail-sections. The sound is inconsistent,
emerging from a concealed source inside the fuselage. We cannot
place it exactly but it is familiar. The catalogue informs
us that it constitutes fragments of "Black Box"
recordings. Sometimes they appear to play backwards as if
this could reverse the final moments of disasters that terminate
in eerie silence after the sound of impact subsides.
The catalogue lists the 10 pre-impact
recordings of plane crashes referenced by C.O.T.I.S.
I will not repeat them all here except to say the last comments
by flight crews share the normal human dimensions of expressions.
We have the fatalist: "that's it.. I'm dead", the
inevitable "oh fuck me" and the uncomprehending:
"What's going on now?".
The irregular sounds emanating
from this aeroplane body accompany the visible debris: the
twisted seats and the wires slithering from the instrument
section like spilled guts. Continuing my scrutiny of the interior
I notice small personal items of the demised occupants : a
cotton bud here, a toothbrush wedged between vinyl and aluminium
there.. nothing of great significance and yet informed by
the fatal history of this relic.
With this history in mind it
is easy to see a convergence between the private and the public
elements of the crash. The upholstery on the wings and tail
sections reinforces this with its printed imagery comprising
aerial images of crash-sites. Debris locations are highlighted
with white marks like the body outlines of victims in old
detective films. At this stage our attention is directed at
the evidence. The evidence of a crash and how we encounter
it involves a complex process of mediation between privilege
(authority), convention (social moires) and the collective
quest to establish causality.
Crashes, and other disasters
responsible for loss of life are endlessly picked over for
evidence of causality. Modern investigators emulate the poor
of Calcutta who scrutinise the terrain for scraps of food
(means of survival). Evidence is collected so that the "body"
can be re-constituted and analysed for the weakness that caused
the disaster. This essentially functionalist approach tends
to define things in terms of cause and effect but even at
its most successful, cannot reconcile the 'inner' nature of
the event . The obscenity of random in an ordered society
is enough to make anyone nervous.
In a society where we have successfully
sanitised our experience of death, where most of the dying
is in controlled environments such as slaughterhouses and
hospitals, or virtual on a screen or embedded in text, a plane/car
crash occurs outside the specified locations for death and
becomes a macabre but brief monument to the failure of a system
which has wrapped itself in mechanical and electronic aids
The relationship between the
technology disaster and art has been examined across a variety
of media, ranging from Andy Warhol's "Disaster"
images (mid 60's) to J.G. Ballards "Crash" (1975)
and Mark Pauline/SRLs techno-destructo-fetish events during
the '80s and '90s. The C.O.T.I.S. work by KIT adds
food for thought..... will continuing technological augmentation
realise the extropian dream or will we simply become more
As we hurtle into the
next millennium we have to pass 2000. Good luck!
The Tower of C.O.T.I.S.
Artfan Magazine, Autumn
issue, 1999, Canada
When I first saw Terminator I began
to mentally prepare myself for the apocalypse, other movies
like The Day After, 12 Monkeys and Deep
Impact only served to re-affirm these beliefs that the
end was nigh and within my own lifetime. The Y2K bug which
seems paltry in comparison but none the less in its threat,
is the apocalypse beginning in the prophetic Year 2000. But
this apocalypse is far from the gun totting beefy super bitch,
Sarah Conner; realistically it could manifest itself as a
KIT’s latest piece is
interestingly in its analogy of the plane being humanity and
the crash being the Y2K virus. It is a seductive sculptural
piece, the contrast between the brutally ripped metal, evidence
of a crash, and the missing pieces (wings and tail) being
replaced with beautifully upholstered pieces is so pleasing
to look at and somewhat reminiscent of Manchester lounge suites.
It is refreshing to see ideas
and concepts surrounding technology and viruses being presented
in this way, where the viewer can walk around it, touch it
and hear the sound resonate in a large space, as opposed to
it being presented on a flat screen with the mouse and headphones
being the only tactile input.
Review by B.Dubuard
As one enters the main gallery trough the white curtain
that blocks out natural light at 200 Gertrude street, they
are confronted with the imposing object that now softly rests
on its padded props. It is the tail end of the crashed aircraft
the audience first encounters as if the plane had actually
landed nose first towards the far end corner of the gallery.
The contrast between the amputated
and crushed metallic body of the aircraft and its small wings
and tail section which have been reconstructed and upholstered
suggests simultaneously the violence of the crash which revealed
the guts of the craft at the front, and the numbing comfort
of its present rest. The constant soundscape that emanates
from the inside of the plane and insidiously fills the space
contributes to this sense of hypnotic trance. A voice, like
a monk's chanting, repeats the same sentence indefinitely,
progressively slowed down then speeded up in a loop: "...
and the time will be...", giving the impression that
the plane is caught in the endless and absurd spiral at the
moment of the accident.
Aerial photographs with the
outlines from other air crashes have been printed on the material
the artists have used to upholster the reconstructed miniaturised
tail and wings. They (the outlines) are evocative of the forensic
investigation that follows a crime, contiguous to the nails
of the upholstery they promote the sense of fetishised-once
living/functioning specimen- the aircraft has taken on when
staged on its comfortable props. The title: The Tower
of C.O.T.I.S. suggest KIT's critical outlook on the investigation
consecutive to such an accident by referring to the ancient
myth of the Tower of Babylon. KIT parodies the obsessive determination
with which the investigation is undertaken. ("Whereas
the crash investigation distances the story of the body from
the wreckage through its reterritorialising of the object
into the arena of residues,(the laboratory),C.O.T.I.S.
seek to re-insert the body into the heart of the spectacular.")
Review by V.Cummins
The Tower of C.O.T.I.S seemed to be about
the power of the inevitable - a power which I found both alarming
and consoling. This aircrash is pre-determined, unstoppable.
The audience is rendered helpless - incapable of altering
its tragic course.
Although already bearing the
brutal scars of its crash, we get a sense of an accident happening
before our eyes. The plane in mid-flight, the engine cuts,
the landscape looms, flying up to meet us. The audiotape provides
the sound of rushing wind. The cries of the plane's passengers
are slowed and slurred, they play over and over on a continuous
loop. Time takes forever as the plane dives to its demise.
This slowing of time seems somehow luxurious. The miniature
tail and wing sections with their beautiful topographical
upholstery are comfortable and couch like. The wrecked body
of the plane lounges on its own cushioned supports. On closer
inspection spiders have taken over and spun their webs where
the windows used to be. There is nothing we can do about this,
this is destiny.