The Art of the Accident
Catalogue text: C.O.T.I.S.
Manifesto by Dominic
The Art of the Accident
Published by the Netherlands
Architecture Institute / V2 Organisation, Rotterdam, Netherlands,
text: C.O.T.I.S. Manifesto
by Dominic Pettman
From the Art of the Accident catalogue
Published by the Netherlands Architecture Institute / V2 Organisation,
Contemporary technologies trace
a curve through time and space, a trajectory from the earth
toward the heavens. gathered beneath the Genitron clock in
Paris counting down the seconds until midnight 2000, our eyes
turn upwards towards the sky in the hope that the twentieth
century will hit escape velocity - the technotheology of the
ejector seat. What is forgotten in this gesture, or perhaps
denied, is the parabolic curve of gravity's rainbow: the trajectory
back towards the earth in the swan-dive of an inevitable vertigo.
The Arc of the Covenant. The Arc of Triumph. The (meta)physics
of what-goes-up. They constitute the sacred sites of modern
crash location, and they are the media-spectacles which C.O.T.I.S.
seek to invert and infect.
C.O.T.I.S. stands for
Cult Of The Inserter Seat. We are part of a global collective
who seek to reintegrate the body into the material matrix.
In search of the ultimate fusion between humachines and the
plenum, it becomes imperative to invert the notion of innocence
inherent in any 'return to the earth'. We propose to do this
by reversing the telescoping of distance offered by highspeed
travel and the spectacular vectors of the media-industrial
complex. By digging into the earth and continuing the momentum
of the crash, C.O.T.I.S. articulates the transcendent
trigonometry of technology. These tunnels create a network
which links into a constellation of impact points to create
a zodiac for subtrerranean stargazers. Thus one tunnel from
a particular crash site may intersect with one from another,
forging a rhizomatic network of extended terminal velocities.
C.O.T.I.S. containers mark these nodal points in a gesture
designed both to orientate and punctuate. This reverse cosmology
navigates the digital transarchitecture of the Internet, affording
an opportunity fior organization still based on that of the
smouldering wreckage of the surface. Beneath the ashes, beneath
the dust, the nomadic tunnellers of C.O.T.I.S. map
the hypertextual co-ordinates of a cartography which survey
a global Bermuda triangle, now a more abstract form.
In exposing the Enlightenment
logic underlying 'air-traffic control', C.O.T.I.S.
extends the legacy of human inscription upon the earth --
the physical graffiti of a transitory presence. From chalk
drawings on hillsides and paths trodden in deserts through
centuries of architecture we have left our marks on the surface
of the planet. Scars of other possibilities.
The scattered corpo-reality
of impact zones produce a liminal space in which it becomes
possible to retrace what it means to be mortal in the millennial
moment. The body incorporates the crash, not the other way
around. Thus we compel the gaze to turn from the sky to the
ground, to the intraterrestrial life-forms which fertillize
the soil of future auto-pilots.
'Shock' comes from the middle-Dutch
work 'schokken' -- to collide. Only now the screen-fatigue
of over- exposure and empathy burn-out necessitates a different
strategic relationship to the sacrifical victims of the symbolic
economy. As our fragile mammal brains try to decode signals
beamed at us with increasing speed and accuracy, we find we
become projectiles ourselves in the scopophilic logic of hyper-reality.
Thus in order to counter the rhetoric of extinction we must
push the fatal(istic) curve of the thanatic asymptote across
the axis of its own complicity with the death drive. In simpler
terms, C.O.T.I.S. exposes the closed-circuit of mediated
mourning, along with the silent satellite witnesses of cathode
addiction. The medium may well be the message, but the messenger
moves more swiftly when there is the scent of blood and smoke
in the air. The narrative baton passses from the crash through
the lens to the studio to the television to the blood-shot
eye in one fluid pan-optical movement. There is precious little
time to blink (indeed the clockwork orange has been digitally
upgraded for the information era, and we find we cannot blink).
C.O.T.I.S. both initiate
and interrupt this news media circuit, playing with the Olympic
torch of disaster footage which the spectacle attempts to
keep alight, lest there be no disasters left to (un)cover.
The space shuttle explosion marks the high-fire mark of this
fetishistic history. Indeed, the fact that the social psyche
can tolerate -- even crave -- the existential violence of
the black box is both an abject lesson, and one of the most
important moments of post-alienated estrangement. The black
box contains the sacred Scripture of a terminal identity which
becomes encoded onto the recording technologies of the day.
Here are etched the famous last words which can be looped
and re-played for aesthetic and forensic purposes. The ghost
in the machine is nothing supernatural, and yet it haunts
the rigorous mortis of our post-mortem era. These are missives
from the missile: the ultimate articulation before the moment
of impact. C.O.T.I.S. recognizes the symbolic charge
of such statements in the context of crash-culture. The black
box sound-byte circulates in the media as an accursed share;
the devel's part of a system which thrives on its sacrificial
inclusion into the logic of late capitalism -- like the terminal
portraits of a lacerated Princess. Indeed, in the post-Diana
mediascape it is impossible to recover the obsolescent innocence
before the Fall.
C.O.T.I.S. is anti-apocalypse
(although not necessarily anti-apocalyptic). Rejecting the
neo-Cartesian discourse of technologies such as Virtual Reality
and the neo-imperialism of space exploration, C.O.T.I.S.
burrows into the earth to bury its containers and members
in a step towards reversing the cosmology of teleological
narratives. We rejoice in the memetic panic behind the Y2K
problem: the millennial bug which threatens to freeze the
entire system. This meta-crash coded into the mainframe all
those years ago is a premise and a limit-horizon for the current
installation. Whether the Y2K bug is the result of poetic
myopia or a subconscious faith in the new millennium, the
collision counters contemporary technocultural hubris in the
libidinal economy. C.O.T.I.S. speak in tongues in
order to distract those who would re-wire the Tower of Babylon.
Published by LoveBytes Digital Art Festival, Sheffield, England,
Published by KIT, Manchester, England, 1998