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



Catalogue:Tower of C.O.T.I.S.
Catalogue text:
Black Box Humour by DX Raiden



Catalogue: Tower of C.O.T.I.S.
Published by Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces, Melbourne, Australia, 1999.


Catalogue text: Black Box Humour by DX Raiden  
From Tower of C.O.T.I.S. catalogue
Published by Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces, Melbourne, Australia, 1999.

When the aircraft crashes, it creates an arena where scientists, technicians and investigators from various fields become performers, the audience consisting of insurance, legal and manufacturing companies who sit and wait on their every word. Whilst TV reporters are on the spot transmitting statistics, the process of rationalising the spectacle through 'science' has begun. The re-construction of the wreckage from the aircraft could be viewed as forensic science's version of the totem pole warding off evil spirits from their territory. As overt displays of physical and psychological territory, totems act as doors through which participants travel. Seeking to defend themselves by entering the symbolic realm, cultures physically symbolise their power over what is considered to be the 'enemy'. In this case, the enemy of science and technology as the accident or the unpredictable. By publicly re-constructing the crashed aircraft, we can observe a painstaking effort to construct a scientific totem of sorts. This totem serves a number of purposes as it allows science and technology to globally re-assert its epistemological embrace around the crash spectacle. A rehearsal of control is exercised through the print, satellite and electronic media with the re-construction of the aircraft as the centrepiece of the showcase. It also acts as a conduit to the past and the future through which 'technicians' can enter to explain the reason for the spectacle (the past) and into the future to make predictions upon upcoming events. The beliefs of applied trajectory into 'other' worlds through physical objects are ancient ones. The social function of the totem pole serves several purposes which claim analogous signification in respective narratives of travel and religion.

The pieces of wreckage which make up science and technology's totem are searched for with a religious zeal. If the religious power of scientific 'truth' resides in the observable, then the wreckage attains a sacred status, an alchemical mysticism, as extensive tests and analyses are undertaken to provide answers. The tests to establish quantities and qualities of residual chemicals, patterns and dimensions of wreckage imbue the objects with a number of transgressive drives. One direction is into the world of the forensic laboratory, the others are dependant on what comes out of this world. Hence, chemically tested objects propel the crash investigator into declaring what happened in the past and into making preventative predictions for the future. The proposition of essentially going back in time via the technologies of forensic science define technology as being an omnipresent force. Thus the narrative constituted through reconstruction is one where no physical presence can escape its chemical identity and time coding via forensic science technologies.

Upon initial viewing, the aircrash and subsequent reconstruction appear to be antithetical to an ideology which promises speed, efficiency and a collapsing of distance. This appearance is somewhat paradoxical: when our somatic thresholds are threatened so directly, our fears and doubts about travel technology are articulated in a way which surpasses economic, ethical or ecological criteria. The body safe from harm is a concept which demands to travel business class. Yet somehow the reconstruction event eases the passengers back into their seats with the added security of 'it couldn't happen again'. The crash may also spell economic or research/development instability or even closure for companies dealing with aviation engineering technologies, yet ultimately it feeds into a wider belief system which proposes scientific rationalism as a definitive way of perceiving the world.

This advocation of science and technology per se occurs after the wound has been dealt to the narrative of science and technology. All this happens within the media suture of the spectacle. The project: to recover control from the initial chaos of the spectacle via the threads of the newest of the new interwoven technologies. More specifically, the investigation introduces and demonstrates the latest locating and recovery technologies, virtual reality simulations of events based on 'black box recordings', forensic testing apparatus etc. This parade of cutting edge technology is brought to us via news programmes hours after the crash and is the triumph of mediated knowledge, science and rationality over the doubt, ambiguity and loss of control brought about by the accident. Thus the crash investigation and reconstruction is an integral tool in the aviation industry's public relations campaign. The cold neutral hands of scientific rationalism will not rest until every piece of wreckage has been found and tested. Ironically, pieces of the aircraft are 'worth' more when they are fragmented and wrecked than when they were complete and part of a functioning aircraft. The outcomes of the testing deliver results that have far reaching judicial, economical, social and engineering implications, and it is these systems which bestow it with 'worth'. In turn the wreckage becomes precious, reverential, almost fetishistic. COTIS (Cult Of The Inserter Seat) reconstructs through a fetishistic impulse. This entails the production of a stage where the props of reconstruction - the wreckage pieces - are reduced in size. The wreckage pieces miniaturised here are what navigate and keep the body in the air - the wing and tail sections.

In the world of COTIS they become fetishized prosthetics. Parodying the fetishization of wreckage through scientific testing, the wreckage is still treated as reverential, but takes on a whole new dynamic which grounds the object in a celebration of its current stasis. This is not a reconstruction that empirically searches for the reason of the crash, rather it is one that re-employs the implied fetishism from the sci/tech world. COTIS suggests celebration in the production of a disabled reconstruction.

The miniaturised wings and tails are upholstered in a material which is digitally printed with aerial photographed landscapes. Here the wreckage pieces become domesticated (via the suggestion of furniture design), modelled and transformed into soft evidence. They are fetishized in a fashion which re-relates the body to the crash and thus to the object in a humourous way. Whereas the crash investigation distances the story of the body from the wreckage through its reterritorializing of the objects into the arena of residues (the laboratory), COTIS seeks to re-insert the body into the heart of the spectacular.

By upholstering the wreckage, a fusion of somatic relations, ergonomics and fetishization takes place to signify an alternative and seductive relationship to the symbology of the accident. A black humour from the scripts of the black box. COTIS seek to re-route the attempt to regain technological control in the event of the spectacle by fetishizing the fragments of the aircraft. The upholstering is akin to mummification (a process practiced to protect the body on its journey to another world) for obsolete technology, a service which reflects COTIS' re-covered beliefs in 'the future'.