WHAT IS THE TORTUGA SHELTER PROJECT?
Tortuga Shelter is an interactive installation that pretends in a humoristic way to recreate the experience of facing a catastrophic situation inside a shelter that far from being a well equipped place where one have only to wait the problems outside to be solved, requires the user’s effort and creative thinking to guarantee his physic and psychological wellness. At the same that he satisfies his basic needs he can explore the environment and have different audio-visual experiences, get information about survival techniques, the history of Linz or the personal details of the people that were in the shelter before.
WHICH IS TORTUGA SHELTER’S CONTEXT?
TORTUGA SHELTER is an artistic project that comes up after observing and reflecting about the incertitude and the constant alert situation in witch today’s society is submerged in a global level, a society that never before felt the end of the days so near.
The end of the cold war seemed to gave cause for breathing freely in a peaceful and secure atmosphere in a big part of the world, but far from this, people observes how the list of dangers that put at risk their lives and the world’s in general has being growing and growing in the last years.
To the natural catastrophes like hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis etc. we had to add in the last years global climatic change, terrorism, the growing tension between nuclear powers and more recently the panic to the economy’s collapse and the resulting social revolts; not to mention apocalyptic prophecies, extraterrestrial invasions etc. all of them menaces difficult to be faced by the “man in the street”, what causes a filling of vulnerability and defenselessness without precedent.
The noisy sirens used by Austrian and other countries’ authorities remind every week their habitants that one of this catastrophes can affect them and prepares them to act correctly in case if it was necessary. In some of these countries there’s an important bunker and shelter infrastructure to protect civil population, as well as food, medicines or gasmask supplying plans to guarantee the peoples wellness in case that local trade system collapses.
Despite these measures, so many people mistrust to put their safety in the hands of the government institutions, that could also collapse or be taken by forces that don’t take care of the citizens. Therefore more and more people get to the conclusion that they can only trust on themselves to feel safe and they spend not few money to build their own bunkers and all the necessary supplies or pay private enterprises that offer them a safe place in case of catastrophe.
HOW DOES THE BUNKER LOOK LIKE?
The bunker can be created using a mobile prefabricated structure like a big camping tent or a container or using a real shelter if there’s one in the building where the artwork will be exhibited.
The size could be around 10-12m² and will require supply plugs to connect the different devices as well as lighting in case in mobile structures are used.
Inside, the user will find a dirty, decrepit and chaotic space, abandoned by Hans, who was hidden there for a while, a paranoid obsessed with the apocalypse that apart of basic things for survival and every day life like canned food, water, medicines and other staple items, left inside numerous personal things like his diary, different documents, photos and notes in to the walls, advices for the future habitants of the shelter as well as different technological like a TV or a portable DVD player.
The basic equipment of the shelter will be a little bed or a mattress, a desk to put the TV and the DVD player, a bedside table and shelves or a wardrobe.
HOW CAN THE SPECTATOR INTERACT?
The spectator is totally free to interact with all the objects that he finds inside the shelter and he will be encouraged by audible messages or the texts written, and the posts put on the walls to use them and to be participative doing different activities.
Basically the interactions can be classified in three kinds: interaction with technological devices, interactions to satisfy basic needs and interactions to get different kind of information.
The user can turn the TV on and off to get news about the situation outside and get official instructions.
The TV shows different kind of visible images apart of the interferences:
-Historical footage from the World War II showing the air attacks over Linz, the chaos and destruction in the street, the occupation etc.
-Recent footage taken on different places in Linz on Saturdays at 12:00 while the fire alarm sounds, showing the behavior of the people and the activity of the city
-News program images showing different catastrophic situations.
-No signal TV screen.
The different video files as well as their start point are randomly changing in short variable intervals of time using a simple MAX/MSP application to get always a different stream of images.
WATCH AN EXAMPLE OF HOW IT COULD BE
The Polka Therapy is an interactive automatic device that the mysterious last habitant of the shelter built and that the espectators can use.
This system is thought to face sadness and depression using music as a healing and trying to keep the enthusiasm and optimism that is necessary in limit situations. The scents to use this system can be found in the diary and the posted messages on the walls but it’s very possible that in the beginning the user is not able to turn it off and the same polka song sounds once an again.
Who is this system working? Once again the user has to sharpen his wit and decipher the different scents to use the music therapy in the good way and not to get mad.
This system uses a smile detector application that tracks the users face with a web cam. The application will be programmed to run every 5 or 10 minutes, playing the same polka song to guarantee that the spirits of the user doesn’t fall. Once he smiles at the camera the application will detect it and will be automatically turned off for the next 5 or 10 minutes. The camera and the speakers will be placed next to a mirror so the user can intuitively know that it is related with the Polka Therapy, and that he has to do something in front of it.
-PORTABLE DVD PLAYER
The user can try to reproduce the DVDs that Hans left around the shelter to simply face boredom or to learn different things. Once again Hans comments in his diary that people should try to turn on this machine and play any of the DVDs, but he also put a message near this device to make it clear that one can use it.
In the collection of DVDs we can find different documentaries about the signs of the apocalypse, people that is being prepared to face different catastrophes, instruction to make potassium iodide etc.
When someone enters the shelter his presence is detected and a welcome voice message is activated reminding the user that he’s totally free from danger and giving him some little instructions.
“Welcome to the Tortuga shelter. From now your save from nuclear war, biological war, terrorist attacks, earthquakes, hurricanes, global tsunamis, super volcanoes, electro magnetic pulse, solar flares, polar shift and killer comets.
Take your own additional measures against: anarchy, assassin bees, zombie attacks, extraterrestrial invasions and the Mayan apocalypse. Please keep calm, take care of feeding and hydration and turn on the TV and radio to be up to date and follow more instructions.”
The system uses a web cam focusing the entrance of the shelter and a VVVV application that activates the sound message when a certain amount of movement is detected.
Once we are inside the shelter we have different possibilities to interact with information.
We can play to be a detective and try to know a little bit more about Hans, the last inhabitant of the bunker investigating through the traces he left: a note book with his reflections, photos and comments posted on the walls, maps, travelling documents etc.
Who is this person? Why was he hidden? What was he doing during the last days inside the shelter? Is he still alive? Where did he go in this case?
From another side the user has got access to different documents concerning survival as well as historical information about the old bunker system from Linz, the amount of people that could enter etc.
-OLD BUNKERS MAP FROM LINZ
The last habitant of the shelter had an A2 size, old map from the city of Linz with all the bunkers that were in use in the times of the World War II. His idea was to know where he could hide in the case that he would have to leave his shelter and the map is full of notes marking different paths to bunkers. He also though in his family and friends and tried to find the best escape plans for them.
This map is complemented with document also from this period telling where exactly these bunkers were and how much people could enter there.
Hans left a note recommending the spectator to be cautious and to make his one marks to find the best bunker for him
-THE ESCAPE PLAN?
Among all the papers we can find different documents, photos and maps that seem to be part of Hans’s escape plan go to, Bugarach?
-An OBB travelling plan for the 21th December from Linz to Carcassone in the south of France.
-A road map that marks the way from Carcassonne to Bugarach.
-A topographic map of the mountains from Bugarach.
-Photos from the same mountain.
Why wanted Hans to go to a remote minuscule village in the French Pyrinees? Did he want to spend the Christmas holidays in a natural environment? Is there any bunker? What happens in this mountain?
Bugarach is a 200 hundred people village at the foot of Pick de Bugarach, a 1,230 meters mountain peak also called the «upside down mountain» because the top layers of rock are older than the lower layers. The followers of the New Age keep that this phenomenon happens because of the ancient building of an extraterrestrial shelter inside the mountains. The number of visitors grew exponentially the last years, and the days before the 21st December, the day of the “Mayan Apocalypse” hundreds of Cult followers started to arrive to Bugarach, where the aliens residing inside the mountain could help them to leave the earth.
The diary that Hans wrote during his stay in the shelter and that he left inside is one of the key pieces of the installation. Inside its pages the user can read Hans’s personal reflections about the every day life inside the shelter, his feelings and emotions, the difficulties that he found etc. But above, the diary helps the user to interact with the environment encouraging him to use the different devices or making his own marks and notes in the different documents. He also proposed different cooking recipes and encouraging the user to write new ones to help the next inhabitants and made different sketches to build useful tools that can help one to build them. Some reflections written on it will also give traces to understand the functioning of the Polka Therapy.
In the other hand the visitors of the installation can also use the diary to write his impressions or to propose new activities, solutions to problems etc. This feedback is not only useful to enrich the next users experience in the shelter but to know more about the points of the artwork that functioned in a better way and try to modify or improve other things.
The visitor of the installation can also find different papers that Hans collected during his stay in the bunker that can be interesting to learn different things:
-A catalog of radiation protection pills, that apparently Hans wanted to order, that includes the prices of the different products.
-Architectonic plans to build different kinds of family bunkers.
-Plans to build a Morrison shelter that consists in a structure that protects a bed against ceiling collapses or object falls.
-Images and plans to build an Anderson shelter, a domestic shelter used during the World War II in Great Britain
-A collection of catastrophe images
SATISFYING BASIC NEEDS
The user of the shelter can perform a lot of different activities focused on satisfying his basic needs.
From one side he can open the food cans and simply it them or try to cook something more elaborated using the few utensils that he finds and the recipes from the diary.
One can also use all the different objects lying around to try to do the tasks that Hans wrote in a list, like to build a shower or a toilet He can of course build other things that he founds necessary or even write new tasks for the coming visitants.
In same cases it will only be necessary to conclude the tools that Hans left unfinished while in others the user will have to do the whole process using his imagination and the help found on the diary where Hans wrote about the different problems that he found and made notes, drawings etc. to find solutions.
The available objects can be the following:
-First aid kit
-Swiss army kniffe
HOW IS THE SPACE DISTRIBUTED?
This is an example of who the distribution of the space can be done but it can change depending of the used structure to build the shelter.
The computer with the necesary programms and files will be placed in a non visible place for the users of the instalation.
WHICH CAN BE THE USERS BEHAVIOUR?
The first stimuli that the spectator will have will be the visual contact with the outside of the shelter that in the case of being a container or a camping will not directly connect with the idea of a security building.
When somebody enters, the welcome message will be activated and at the same time that he observes the space he will get the order to turn on the TV and he will be suggested to eat and drink.
Probably the first reaction will consist on observing thoroughly the inside and if he follows the recommendations he will turn on the TV to follow more instructions. Once he notices that this device will not give him more traces to know what else he can do he can turn it off or just let in working to see if the messages change in any moment.
Then he can start to read the different documents, mark his escape routes in the maps or watch more videos using the DVD player.
While this is happening is very probable that the Polka Therapy was functioning and the spectator will start to be annoyed, more if the songs is mixed with the other device’s sound.
The degree of interaction will increase while the user gets into the diary and is involved in the different tasks.
Then he can try to build the toilet or the shower, tasks that don’t need too much time, or he can try to know the functioning of the Polka Therapy and try to stop it, draw more sketches to build more objects, write his reflections, new cooking recipes etc.
The most confident users will also fill like to open de food cans and make different dishes and the scarcity of mediums will force them to find simple solutions to different problems. He can for example use the empty cans as glasses, or use the tops and wire to make a ladle to serve the food etc.
In this way and depending of the degree of implication of the spectator the bunker can just be a place where you get some audiovisual stimuli or a working place to create different tools and try to survive a catastrophe.
WHAT HAPPENS DURING THE OPENING OF THE EXHIBITION?
The user will start experiencing the artwork even before he enters in the shelter through the long awaited lunch that comes after the opening speech and other formalities.
Nonetheless when the time to fill the hungry stomachs arrives, the people will not find the delicate and nice canapés which they’re used to, not nearly a range of good wines or champagne to refresh their thirsty throats.
Instead of this, and according to the humoristic tone of the artwork, the assistants to the opening will be nicely surprised with a “shelter menu”, based in a wide range of canned food and water served in large containers.
No matter how much varieties they try, they will finally appreciate the same taste every food and they could from the beginning put themselves in the shoes of somebody eating this meat day after day.
WHAT GETS THE USERS AFTER VISITING THE INSTALATION?
Apart of bringing the spectators the opportunity to have fun and spend a good time proving their creativity and their capability to solve different problems and riddles, and extend their knowledge in different fields, the goal of the project is to make visible this part of the society that lives in constant fear projecting always the future in the worst possible way.
The spectator then could ask himself if there are real reasons to act like this or it’s something out of all proportion and reflect about his own personal situation, his fears and the way in which he looks at the future, and the situation in which he imagines himself in it.
Will he have to leave his comfortable way of living to just try to survive with the minimum?
At the same time one can question himself how much does the recent history or the Mass Medias’ messages influence to build a certain image of the world and contrast it with the reality.
This questions can be just analyzed trough the texts that the users write in the diary or by a direct dialogue with them in situ.