By Jennifer Bozick
How often have you cringed upon finding a twenty year old photo of yourself in ill-fitting 70's clothes? How many of your old scribbled up notebook covers are now incomprehensible to your adult mind? In "Kabin Fever (Memory Box)", Kevin McCoy inhabits a poor man's isolation tank in order to retrace and recreate a fictionalized version of himself as the acne-faced American adolescent who defaced those pages.
In "Kabin Fever," both spatial and temporal forces cause this persona to be literally "drawn-up" for us on the inner walls of the wooden box McCoy is in. During the course of his reminiscences, his five foot square box becomes packed with photos, films, and cassette tapes. These raw materials function as both the touchstones and the transmission wires for his memories. He is forced to confront both the memories he relates and the media in which he chooses to ground them. The technology is molded into media collage which both aides and hinders his attempts to communicate with us. Because this performance is conceived in real time, the adolescent persona that McCoy conjures from the past is constantly mediated by the present. The visual and auditory means of illustrating these memories becomes part of their texture.
Formally, this texture of temporal dislocation is reinforced by the processed sound we hear and by the black and white images of the video monitor through which we see into McCoy's box. This grainy monochrome image suggests personal past by referring to technology's past. This constant shifting, reading, re-reading, and re-focusing of memory thus goes beyond representation and enters an active space of representing. The pre-recorded photographs, films, and cassettes exist as keys to past events, but their re-framing exists in the present tense, as we listen and watch.
As McCoy navigates through the collision of his personal history with that of American popular culture, it becomes clear that, much like most adolescents, he is experimenting with different identities, searching for an appropriate blend of creativity and cool. For example, we read, "Love it or leave it, asshole", the juvenile ranting of American patriotism scrawled on the wooden wall while, on another wall we read, "S'Cool Bus" complete with "Positraktion and a Hidden Nitro Tank". The memory box allows all these identities, from innocent child to cynical adolescent, to live side by side as equals. Here, the dynamic of childhood play flows quite naturally into mature artistic production and back to play again. This movement occurs complete with all the incomplete gropings toward self-expression along the way.
This quality of incompleteness of expression is heightened, of course, by our limited view point of what is happening in McCoy's box. We, upon entering the empty box, are allowed to see only a very directed fraction of McCoy's multi-form collage. There is a chaos, a multiplicity of audio and visual information, and we receive only bits of it through a small video window into McCoy's box/mind. This small video box of fullness inside our large box of emptiness calls attention to the limitations of interpersonal communication and connection in any case. We have small bright visions of another's world, but we still contend physically with the inner walls of our own box.
Seattle, WA, August 1994