Shuttles of Primeval Times

Cover Image for Shuttles of Primeval Times

The "Raumfähren der Urzeit" (space shuttles of primeval times) was one installation at the Jorge-Gomondai-Platz in Dresden (beside a couple of other amazing exhibits). It was designed and built in a team with Benny Thomä and Felix Thalmann as part of a seminar called "Werkstatt II". This exercise was about to learn how to transport a story of Dresden´s history with an interactive city installation in a public exhibition for on day.

Watch the clip of the event or a video dedicated to the installation.

the story behind the exhibit

concept collage of the story

During the the construction of the shopping mall "Kaufpark Nickern" in Dresden researchers discovered remainings of Neolithic circular enclosures on that land. These structures are proof that human culture already existed about 7000 years ago in the today's city area. Beside the known features of Linear pottery culture (5500 - 4500 BC) are specific details that have no connection to the past technical knowledge of humans. That's why the controversial Swiss expert of ancient history Erich von Däniken claimed to see evidence of former extraterrestical life in these complex features of the monument. The author of the bestseller "Chariots of the Gods" sees some kind of long forgotten landing spots for aliens that will be reactivated in the near future when these life formes will return to earth (unfortunately the reference is not online anymore).

So our installation told a story based on this half true, half fictional history of Dresden. It claimed to have new evidence discovered by students, that there were detailed construction manuals of premival space shuttles along these monuments. These shuttles can be used to meet our old visitors far away from earth. In cooperation with the technical institute of the TU Dresden the students built these shuttles with the today's advanced technologies and two of the dummies were presented at the Jorge-Gomondai-Platz that day.

how it worked

The installation was composed of three major parts.

the info panel

the info panel

This segment was a prominent info panel, that explained the true background of the story and our fictional addon of the students that built two working copies of primeval shuttles. An important element in the panel was a small display case containing old "mystic like" stone fragments that supposed to be parts of the ancient construction manual.

the lost shuttle on the left

lost shuttle on the left

The second part of the installation was the left side mark of one of these shuttles. But this shuttle wasn't there. This side should create the image that one shuttle already went to space and that the old construction plans worked. So obviously some brave visitors traveled in space already.

the broken shuttle on the right

damaged shuttle on the right

On the right side of the installation was the remaining prototype of the shuttle (crafted on top of a park bank). The info panel introduced the visitor to sit down and try to launch the shuttle. The launch sequence was triggered by fasten the big seat belt.
Unfortunately this shuttle seemed to be broken cause after a short countdown and some bass vibrations a hug cloud of smoke and a computer voice announced the abort of the launch routine.
After that exciting attempt to travel to space the visitors were asked if they believed the story (a bit) and they had the illusion to travel to space with a park bank for a short moment.

what we learned

Here are a couple of things we learned from the seminar and the actual event:

  • Our story was a bit complex but we revived the feedback that it was funny and interesting to mix real and fictional stuff.
  • We were lucky, that a lot of kids have been there, cause they were much more receptive to the space-travel-part and the "fake" of the lost shuttle.
  • All visitor had a lot of fun with failing start routine.
  • The whole survey setup (if visitors believed the story) was not working well and at the end not necessary.
  • The whole automation of the start routine, the moving fans and the triggered smoke detection broke after a couple of sessions on that day. But putting on on of us in a temporary technically tent behind the installation to trigger all the sounds and action manually was surprisingly sufficient for that one-day-only setup.

On the bottom line we learned that an interesting and funny analog presentation of a story does not require a super sophisticated interactive device. Keep it simple and concentrate on one thing.