Kalte Ecken im Koffer

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Foto by Laura Alapfy

Project Description

Within 45 to 60 minutes, the participant plays a virtual audio walk through the streets of Berlin, that takes place during GDR times. It can be played anywhere, since all the equipment one needs is to be found in the prepared briefcase, which displays – amongst other things – a digital map on a screen. Like a time capsule, the briefcase invites to immerse oneself in the story of M.W., an informant of the Stasi, who gathered information on three suspects in former East-Berlin, some decades ago.

Center of the story is the novel “Ich” written by Wolgang Hilbig. Following the voice of M.W., the person playing the briefcase steers the onscreen cursor to receive information via sound snippets and thus sets the order in which those are discovered. Each snippet poses a question. How is the participant going to proceed? Telling the truth or lying? Being a spy or rather being spied on? Which storyline will be followed? Focusing on M.W.’s own fateful actions or rather zooming in on the assumed dissident S.R. (codename “Reader”)?

With all the information one receives over time, the question continuously arises: How credible is the gathered intel? Or is it just imaginary stories that “Reader” writes? Looking at the documents through M.W.’s eyes, are the observations manipulated by the Stasi? May “Reader” himself even be an informant to the secret police, spying on M.W.?

With its wethered haptics and interior decoration, the briefcase seems to derive from a parallel universe in which the Stasi possesses today’s technology.

As part of the game “Kalte Ecken im Koffer”, the briefcase is given to the participant in a secret meeting that appears to be a hand-off by an “agent”. Afterwards, the participant has to bring the briefcase back in order to complete the mission successfully.

What's in the suitcase?

Foto by Laura Alapfy

Hardware

  • five BCD switches
  • three CD4021B shift-in register
  • 7” Monitor from waveshare
  • 4 mechanical keyswitches from cherry keys
  • 1 single board computer (Lattepanda)
  • anker power bank 26500 mAh
  • an old hacked GDR Walkie-Talkie
  • files, a city map of Berlin, a pen, some blank paper for notes


Software

  • Unity based self made windows app for x86_64 environment
  • an Arduino sketch running on the Lattepanda to send the input via serial to the Unity app

Thought about the haptics of the project

The briefcase was built to resemble a fictional device the Ministry of State Security (MfS) could have had in use. Therefore robust switches known for their military use were installed to enter the codes. The enclosed walkie-talkie is a modded version of an original model often used by the Stasi. Aiming to merge authenticity and fiction, the present-day tech, e.g. the touchscreen and Lattepanda, was covered with an outworn skin from an old Russian mobile television. Retrofitted cherry keys provide for a certain kind of old school feeling by their mechanical feedback and the specifically added yellowish lacquer.

All documents given in the briefcase are additionally weathered, e.g. using soy sauce, and drafted using an old typewriter. Pen and paper are original witnesses of the Soviet era. Seven several kinds of paper were used, resembling GDR documents, e.g. a train ticket was printed on a different kind of paper than a permit to enter West-Berlin. The former was additionally flexed and folded due to its imaginary use as a commodity item. Whereas the latter depicts a rare document of singular value.

Tutorials

How to work with BCD(binary-coded decimal) switch?

How to connect old tech with speakers to bluetooth?