Passport Sized Interference



P.S.I. (Passport Sized Interference)

Having embarked on F-USER which utilised an on-site location and a gallery space to exhibit the project, KIT decide to undertake a venture which functions completely outside of the white cube environment and work in the Ottawa Airport in Ottawa, Canada and the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, England. Curated and supported by Gallery 101 in Ottawa and the Museum of Science and Industry in the UK, the name of the project is P.S.I. (Passport Sized Interference).

Working earlier in 1996 within the context of the airport for Connection KIT in Calgary, KIT take the next logical step and work directly in a working airport. Many presentations and meetings have to be taken with the airport’s directors of operations to persuade them that the project will benefit the space and its customers. After months of negotiations, they pass the proposal and help support the work.

Two identically constructed booths are produced at the same time in Manchester and Ottawa. Plans of fabrication are drawn up and followed meticulously so that both booths will appear and function in the same way as each other. Working in an airport requires much patience. Every day we bring tools, materials and people into the airport and everyday takes 45 minutes to pass through security. After weeks of work on-site, the two booths are built. The design for them is based on the generic photographic booths found in train, bus and subway stations for taking passport sized photographs. The title of the work is based on this latter phrase. The P.S.I booths, however, are covered in soil, which has been covered in a glaze so that it is plastified, and the roof of each booth is covered in green Astroturf. It appears as though the booths have been pulled out of the ground, bunker-like they look functional, yet too organic to really fit in the surroundings of an airport or a science museum.

A brown curtain pulls across the booth in the same way that curtains do on the booths found in city transit stations. Once inside, a rotating seat allows the audience to adjust themselves to the correct height for the camera and a strip light produces enough illumination for the picture to be correctly lit. The cameras in the P.S.I. booths however, are web-cameras which are exchanging images with each other. Once seated inside the booth, your image appears in a rectangle window alongside the image of an individual who is sitting in the other booth thousands of miles away, at the same time.

The airport operates daily with the most advanced surveillance, mechanical and digital technologies available in our culture. The Science and Technology Museum on the other hand, as an institution, retrospectively documents the history of such tools and modes of transport. It could be read that the airport represents the future whilst the Museum represents the past. The purpose of the P.S.I. project is to link the institutions of the airport and the museum together in a temporal conversation about the present and presence. Currently, we can communicate throughout the world via digital technologies and effectively collapse distance as never before. On the wall facing the participant as they sit down, a digital clock tells the time of the booth in the sister city, thus in England the time reads 5 hours behind and in Ottawa, 5 ahead of it’s respective Greenwich Meridian time.

For the project to function as it is planned to, there needs to be a person’s presence inside each booth. The cross-section of present and presence in both cities is necessary for the booths to have pertinence. The aesthetic of the booth reiterates this proposal as it too appears to be a cross section of terra firma. P.S.I. posits that the grounding of narratives surrounding digital technologies is a necessary process, especially when the flights of fantasy sold by many utopian technologists, are cancelled due to technical problems.

P.S.I. (Passport Sized Interference) exhibits at the following gallery and site –

1996   The Museum of Science and Industry (Manchester, England)
           Ottawa Airport / Gallery 101 (Ottawa, Canada)