KILO | Iba se 99.
[I wish to communicate with you. | I acknowledge 99]
KILO | Iba se 99. takes inspiration from an excerpt of a report produced by the Women’s Bureau division of the United States Department of Labor titled Negro Women War Workers, published in 1945. The film is also an exploration of the relationship between the US Navy Flag signal Kilo which has the assigned message of “I wish to communicate with you”, the first 12 Black women allowed to work on the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1942, and the Orisha Ochosi.
Within the film an abstract form of a keel laying ceremony is performed by the lead performer. Laying the keel, or laying down is the formal recognition of the start of a ship's construction. It is often marked with a ceremony attended by owners of the ship or the company funding the building of the ship. A Keel laying is the initial placement of the central timber making up the backbone of a vessel, called the keel that prevents the vessel from tipping over. The tradition of a keel-laying ceremony is the ceremonial beginning of construction on a ship before it touches water.
The deconstruction of the binoculars is in reference to the work produced by the Black woman who scored a 99, the highest grade of the 6,000 women who took proficiency exam for work on the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1942. She was assigned to a department on the navy yard where binoculars, telescopes, and range finders were reconditioned for use in World War II. The retrieval of the porro prism within the binoculars is a gesture to the holding of time itself. I see the tools that manipulate sight such as binoculars, which manipulate the range of sight, as a form of time trial within the concept of relativity of simultaneity where the examination of two spatially separated events occur at the same time – is not absolute, but depends on the observer's reference frame. The soldiers who used these tools refurbished by these women were entitled to a form of time travel in the sense that they were able to see figures before the range of their eyes could provide them with an image. I see both the unnamed woman who scored 99 and the deity Ochosi in alignment with each other. Ochosi is known as a skilled tracker and hunter who walks with the Orisha Ogun (god of war) and the owner of iron.
The performance by Ash Tai is experiential as she was positioned to fulfill the task of walking the symbolic keel around the perimeter of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, imprinting the keel, and deconstructing the binoculars. The intent was to create an experience much like the women who worked the Navy Yard experienced in training to do their respective jobs. Learning by doing was imperative in their work process. Tai is a native Brooklynite who was able to learn and present the keel on the perimeter of the yard. The entirety of the imprinting was done in one single take.