Sunday, October 4, 2009

It Begins Again

This will go into character and be more interesting pending the approval of our residence, but here is the proposal (sans a couple large boring diagrams):

Gunderson Residence / Listening Post Seven-Gamma

An Espionage and Conspiracy Shanty


The Gunderson Residence A.K.A. Listening Post Seven-Gamma (LP 7-Γ) is a shanty that will mix cloak and dagger espionage antics with esoteric, far-fetched conspiracy theories. The shanty will appear on the outside as an idyllic, yet strangely placed, suburban home complete with a small Astroturf lawn, a mailbox, fake shrubs, and lawn flamingos. It will be home to the Gundersons, a nuclear family of extremely exaggerated Minnesotan stereotypes that are both unerringly cheery and aloof about their strange presence on the ice. From the disquieting amount of antennae on the roof and the lenses of hidden cameras on nearly everything to the inconsistent identity of the Gunderson family members and their habit of only being able to speak in frivolous niceties, everything about the exterior of the shanty and the family is suspicious. When one enters the door of the shanty, they find themselves in a tiny kitchen faced with a refrigerator door. Behind the refrigerator door is the true nature of the Gunderson Residence: Listening Post Seven-Gamma, an outpost for a mysterious and shadowy organization. Their real identity is unknown and their purpose is classified, but it has something to do with the other shanties.

The espionage theme will lend itself to all kinds of visitor participation and good-natured hi-jinks. Fake rivalries between our shanty and others will form. Shadowy agents will creep around the ice. Code phrases and secrecy will seep into conversations. Our intention is to instill a healthy suspicion in the public, who will come to wonder where our shanty’s covert activities end and their own paranoia begins.

The Shanty

Structure: The structure of the shanty itself will come in two sections: the 4’x4’ faux kitchen entryway, and the 12’x8’ main room. They will be connected when assembled, but have separate sets of skis. From floor to ceiling, the rooms will be 8’ tall. On top of the main room, there will be a triangular roof, 2’ tall at its peak, running down the length of the shanty. A similar, but much smaller roof will be on the entryway.

Exterior: The exterior will appear to be the “Gunderson Residence”, a small suburban home. The walls will be covered in siding, the roof with shingles. Each of the four windows will have a windowsill tray filled with fake flowers concealing what appear to be hidden cameras. The shanty’s structure will be skirted by fake bushes, concealing the skis. Surrounding the structure will be the Astroturf “yard”, which extends 3’ out from the main walls, creating what looks like a 22’x14’ rectangular yard. The Astroturf will be weighted down by boards that run beneath the edges of the “lawn”. In the” lawn”, there will be a faux stepping stone (likely wood sheets) path to the door, a small flock of lawn flamingoes, a mailbox, and possibly a lawn gnome. The “lawn” will only be deployed on the weekends, during the visiting hours and will otherwise be stored inside the shanty’s structure. There will be four real windows in the main room. They will be 2’x2’ starting 4’ from the floor. The windows will all be two-way mirrors, preventing visitors from looking inside. On the front of the main room, there will be a large fake mirrored window. On the roof in the back there will be a faux chimney in which all manner of antennae and satellite dishes will emerge. Above the front doorway will be a semi-circular window with a strange symbol on it, resembling the all-seeing eye of the Illuminati.

Interior: Immediately through the front door, the visitors find themselves in a tiny room that looks like a small kitchen, complete with wall calendar, a tiled floor, hanging oven mitts, and a large refrigerator door. The door will have a small, sliding peep-hole slat on it, through which the occupants examine the visitors, ask them for the password, and allow entry. The main room is a secret spy outpost. Chairs sit next to complex-looking listening devices, small countertops are covered with spying accoutrements and all manner of documents, binoculars hang next to windows, and costumes labeled “Mr. Gunderson” and “Mrs. Gunderson” hang next to the doorway. The wall opposite the entryway is “the big board”, a large map of the shanty project portion of the lake, with effigies of each shanty pinned and labeled in the appropriate spots. Each shanty has gathered intelligence and recon information pinned next to it. Positions of drop points, agents, and other landmarks are also indicated.


Most of the performance aspect of our shanty will be the interplay between the Gundersons, our field agents, the spies inside of the shanty, the members of F.O.I.L. (Free-Thinkers Opposed to Insidious Lies), and the visiting public.

The cast of characters that we will have working out our shanty will be split into three different groups. The first is the Gunderson Family, consisting of a Mr. George Gunderson and a Mrs. Judy Gunderson. They will usually be found outside of the shanty, making small talk with visitors in gratingly fake Minnesotan accents. They will ask the visitors cryptic and inane questions, seemingly confirming that the visitor is also a member of their shadowy organization, then lead them cautiously into their “home”. The second group consists of the spies and intelligencers themselves, who will be found using the listening equipment inside the shanty as well as skulking around other shanties. The field agents will appear appropriately spy-like, with dark sunglasses always on, collars drawn up high, and hats tilted low. They will speak quietly and always in code. The third group of characters will be the wild-eyed members of Free-Thinkers Opposed to Insidious Lies, a group of conspiracy theorists intent on exposing the Gundersons and their shadowy benefactors. They will go around the ice speaking to anyone who will listen telling them about the nefarious deeds and true purpose of the Gunderson Residence. They will sometimes hand out fliers detailing their theories, insisting that people visit their blog to uncover the truth. Occasionally they will protest the shanty, which then results in their being dragged into the shanty by the Gundersons, to reappear later subdued and seemingly lobotomized. They will be appropriately kooky and wild-eyed tin foil hat types.

At times when the heat is on, and the Gundersons’ cover is in danger of being blown, a code red will be called, and the shanty will go into “stealth mode”. This is when a series of poles are produced from under the shanty, placed around the perimeter of the “yard”, and a reflective material is rolled around them, rendering the shanty (kinda) invisible save for the mass of antennae protruding from the roof.

Other possible performances include: Having our agents chase down a man dressed as bigfoot, a large F.O.I.L. protest of the Gunderson Residence, and having our agents engage in cover-up operations (following the hoax perpetration activity listed below) by spreading misinformation en masse.


The theme and the shanty lend themselves to all kinds of fun activities for the visiting public and the residents of the other shanties. The following are just a few we have already planned.

Hoaxes: Around the ice, we will perpetrate and photograph a wide range of hoaxes with the help of the visitors to the shanty. Photographers and perpetrators will be F.O.I.L. activists, going around taking pictures of visitors pointing at, looking at, or otherwise reacting to the faked phenomena. These will include hubcaps on the ends of fishing lines acting as UFOs, papier-mâché sea monsters protruding from the ice acting as Nessie-like monsters, dogs dressed in weird costumes acting as chupacabras, and furry-suited people acting as Bigfoot. Visitors that participate will be given a small flier for the blogs, and will be told to expect their photos up within the week. The photos will be edited, enhanced, uploaded, and worked into the paranoid narrative of F.O.I.L.

Cooperative Intelligence Gathering: Visitors to the interior of the shanty will be asked to assist our organization in gathering intelligence on other shanties and events on the ice. The cooperative visitors will be asked to pledge an oath of undying loyalty to the organization (which they cannot know the name of), given an intelligence gathering device, and sent out to a specific shanty as honorary field shanty to collect intel. The intelligence gathering devices will include (among other things) tape recorders hidden in coffee mugs, disposable cameras hidden in hats, and small sticky (but fake) bugging devices to be planted in secret. The intel will be placed on the shanty’s “big board” next to the corresponding shanty.

Shadowy Meetings: After giving their oath of loyalty, visitors will also be assigned drop-offs and message delivery. Mysterious manila envelopes, dossiers, and cryptic phrases will be delivered to stationed field agents and sometimes to a random, unwitting member of the visiting public (sleeper agents).

Online Portion

Two separate and opposing blogs will constitute the online portion of our shanty project. One blog will be for the Gunderson Family. It will catalog the seemingly mundane goings on in the Gunderson house, but will still be heavily censored and blacked out. Poorly faked and edited photographs of the fictional family’s home life will accompany each entry, showing, for example, George Gunderson mowing the Astroturf lawn with a edited-in lawnmower or Judy Gunderson watering the fake, camera-filled flowers.

The second blog will be for Free-Thinkers Opposed to Insidious Lies (F.O.I.L.), a conspiracy theory group bent on exposing the Gunderson Family as the shadowy organization they are. The entries will be over-the-top conspiracy wacko fodder. The authors will attempt to connect the Gunderson Family to UFOs, shadow people, the faked moon landing, ghosts, bible prophecies, robot doppelgangers, and all kinds of far out paranormal activities. The blog will also contain surveillance photos of the outside of the Gunderson Residence and other shanties as well as the hoax photographs and videos from each day at the shanty. Entries will be written counter to each entry on the Gunderson Family’s blog attempting to interpret and debunk the misinformation that it spreads, no matter how insignificant (i.e. “THE LIARS CLAIMED THAT LAST SATURDAY WAS QUOTE “a nice day for flying kites!” WHEN IN FACT WINDSPEEDS AROUND LP7GAMMA DID NOT RISE ABOVE FIVE MPH!!!! THEY CAN’T KEEP THEIR LIES STRAIGHT!! WAKE UP SHEEPLE!!!). The blog’s tone will be one of scared desperation, the ramblings of frightened and crazy people struggling to string together seemingly unrelated subjects to justify their paranoid world view.

In Addition

If we are given a residence, this will be the second year for two main members of our team (Alex Nee and John McConnell of the USS Walter Mondale) in the Art Shanty Project. Their experience has made them wiser. A much, much larger team, thorough planning, and a more orthodox structure will make this shanty better and more fun to build. We hope to join you guys on the ice!

A Pair of Relevant Pictures
The Logo Prototype

The Initial Mock Up

Wish us luck, you jerks.