Tower of C.O.T.I.S.



Tower of C.O.T.I.S. by Dominic Pettman

Tower of C.O.T.I.S. by Werner Hammerstingl

Tower of C.O.T.I.S. by K.Monfries, B.Dubard, V.Cummins



Tower of C.O.T.I.S. by Dominic Pettman
Monument Magazine, Issue 29, 1999, Australia

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 unpredictable universe.

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?



C.O.T.I.S. by KIT by Werner Hammerstingl
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 to multitask.

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.

"C.O.T.I.S., as 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:

* 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 for survival.

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 vulnerable?

As we hurtle into the next millennium we have to pass 2000. Good luck!



The Tower of C.O.T.I.S. by K.Monfries, B.Dubard, V.Cummins
Artfan Magazine, Autumn issue, 1999, Canada

Reveiw by K.Monfries

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 plane crash.

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.