Encrypted Data is an interactive installation made for Burning Man 2018 about cryptography, secret messages and treasure hunt.
It is a massive key shaped structure that is also an encryption device and a whole treasure hunt game. This beacon was a meeting point, a play area and a place for deep communication between strangers and friends.
The central space hosts a small electronic pad that let you write, encrypt, and print out messages.
The main purpose of the piece is to encourage private and deep, thoughtful communication between friends and strangers. Because the device's output text is encrypted, it can only be read after the burn, thanks to the dedicated website that will decypher it.
This encourage more profound thoughts to be shared : secrets, mysteries, personal views, hard truths, embarrassing compliments, declarations of love, or whatever suits to be read later, after the dust has settled...
It is meant to deepen a relationship, or to give a moment of bliss to a complete stranger that shall not be met again, just for the joy of giving.
The structure also includes dozens of hidden and locked hideouts and stashes. A treasure hunt game is hidden in all these stashes, using riddles, lockpicking and hidden keys. It will induce curious folks to open more drawers, look for hints, decypher old school secret codes to unveil new stashes and find thoughtful gems and "easter eggs". This game is designed to be played by mutiple people at once, and requires knowledge from different cultures and languages. Some steps even need to be made by two people simultaneously. This encouraged people to meet and collaborate.
Encrypted data is a key-shaped structure, made out of wood, acrylic glass, LED wires and electronic devices. It is 6 meters long and 2.5m high.
The key shape seems to stand on the floor, with its bow and tip both touching the floor.
The two main sides are made of wood plates, and embed dozens of small drawers, cupboards and others hideout and stashes. The beveled edges are made with thin acrylic frosted glass, to let the light of led wires glow through it. These luminescent surfaces show light and colors animations at night, according the encryption device activity.
The structure was designed to be climbable. It was visited by hundreds of people during the week.
I originally imagined and designed this project, inspired by the concerns about online privacy and crypted data. I wanted to create something playful, fun, interactive, that engage people whith each other while being suggestive about these topics.
I submitted it to Burning Man Art Grant program. Then, I gathered a team of friends around this project : Michael Tamimy, Clement Rouil, Alexia Blob Fluff, and Zac Cogle. Building Encrypted Data was quite a journey, with hundreds of unexpected challenges, thousands of hours of work, a lot of new fields of knowledge to access, and a lot of life altering human encounters.