Passport Sized Interference



KIT: Landing Letters from the Airline by John Hawthorn  

Strange International Encounter
Virginia Howard  



KIT: Landing Letters from the Airline by John Hawthorn  
Pulp Magazine, Summer issue, 1997, England

KIT is a fluid international collaboration constructed in 1990 to work within the auspices of true 'multimedia'. Fluid in that its members change according to the dictates of the project being worked on. Like prosthetic limbs, each member can be attached or detached at any juncture to recombine KIT's identity - sort of David Cronenberg meets Mr. Potato Head. Thus architects, industrial and landscape designers, visual artists and merchant bankers are limbs of KIT. Given the range of interests represented in the group, their work reflects disparate contributions. This collision of ideas, work methods and processes is celebrated by KIT, something Manchester will witness in the upcoming year.

Following contacts initiated during their October '96 exhibition, Passport Sized Interface, which linked 2 photobooth-cum-time machines in the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester and Ottawa International Airport in Canada, we can expect several projects to be executed in the North West Region in the near future. P.S.I. began with the idea of exposing some of the faults of new communications technologies. In execution, however, P.S.I. turned these shortcomings into celebrations of human input and dialogue through machines. The heavily pixelated, non-verbal communication of the live internet (via 'CUSeeMe'), video link in P.S.I. dumbed the relationship between the human participants, reducing it to a childlike arena of waving and face pulling. Within the purpose of the museum as recorder of the past and that of the airport as projector of future destination, the booth which was covered in soil and astroturff, becoming a bunker of inefficiency behind economy's lines.

KIT's current work seeks to further expose collision and inefficiency. The group is preparing projects which incorporate the last sentences of airline crew before the aircraft crash. These are taken from black box recordings and are then transposed on to open hillsides (a la Cerne Abbas), with a chalk football pitch marker. When these huge, white letters of distress are completed, they are then photographed from the mode of transport from which they were transmitted before the crash.

Working to expose these kinds of contradictions whereby certain technical failures became media spectacles, KIT find themselves looking at the wreckage and fusing the pieces together to make a new hybrid.



Strange International Encounter by Virginia Howard  
The Ottawa Citizen Newspaper, October 13, 1996, Canada

Got a ticket to ride? Because airfare to anywhere comes with an art bonus this month. The bonus takes the form of an interactive video installation called Passport Sized Interference, and it awaits the unsuspecting traveller at gate 22 of the international airport's departure lounge.

With the support of Gallery 101 and airport staff, an artists' collective known only as KIT has installed a booth near a quadrangle of departure lounge chairs. I say booth because P.S.I. looks something like a Photo-Mat. You can duck behind a short, brown curtain and sit on a stool facing a video camera lens and a rectangular video screen. But there the resemblance to an automatic self-portrait studio ends. The interior and exterior walls of the booth have been spackled with a gritty black substance. The structure's roof is made of bright green plastic turf, and its sides are reinforced with some grotesque looking bulwarks. This great sod-of-a-bunker houses an Internet video hookup, which connects it to an identical booth sitting in Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry, United Kingdom.

In Ottawa, the booth's oblong screen is split down the middle, showing a self-conscious you on the left side, and a quizzical Mancunian on the right. The intercontinental dumb show that ensures is both funny and pathetic. The interference of the artwork's title manifests itself in two ways. Your moving image and their's in the U.K. are shown in slow motion. Once in a while, the action degenerates into freeze frame, and a person's last move is stuck on screen for several minutes, without changing. At other moments, the video is plagued by electronic noise, which turns the image into a confetti of searing white pixels and black dashes.

Unlike the dime store photomat, P.S.I. is not just good clean fun. Users who consider its bunker-like trappings for any length of time will find that a nervous tremolo creeps into their laughter. What are we doing in these one-person underground observation posts, spying on strangers across time zones? The interference-riddled messages sent to the other side could be setting the stage for a cyberwar. Our beloved technology cannot make a stranger's will visible to us. Worse still, a little electronic noise can make liars of us all, and in our confusion we could easily rain down computer viruses and untold mischief on each other.

After a close encounter with P.S.I., you can cock a Bette Davis hat over one eye and declare that the future is now, voyagerÉ. But are we ready for it?

If your taste runs to colorful gesturals on canvas, the airport will provide. You'll find Cecile Comblen's work in one of the departure lounges. She's one of several local artists who, with the help of the airport's manager of community relations Nan Taylor, have mounted show regularly in this unorthodox venue.