The Ammonite Project
by Hendrik Hackl

The Ammonite Project, 1997
canvas, steel pipe
(©Hendrik Hackl. Photo: Gabe Kirchheimer.)

The Ammonite Project is a large tent sculpture based on the shape of the same creature of the Cretaceous period. The installation was inspired by the spiral shape of the fossil remains of the ammonite and created as an offering of thanks to nature, to symbolically give an ammonite back to Mother Earth. In 1997, the white spiral tent was erected for the first time in America at Burning Man.

The tent is a descending spiral archway, experienced by walking and crawling through it, starting at full height and devolving to a crawl. Visitors describe their passage as the way of de-evolution, as rebirth or as a trip into the mother womb.

The tent is formed of two components: a series of metal arches and a tent canvas that covers the arches to give it its final ammonite form. The largest arch is approximately 18 feet in height and 9 feet wide and gradually shrinks to its smallest member, which is only 2 feet in height and requires each visitor to crawl under to pass through. The tent is 70 feet across and takes two days to assemble. The structure requires 163 ribs to complete it, each fixed to the ground with two foot stakes. Once the ribs are in place, it is completely covered with a specially made transparent synthetic cloth. Twelve combined segments form the "envelope" of the artificial fossil.

The interactivity of the Ammonite Project is the walk through its interior space. Eventually, the tent ceiling begins to brush one's head, and visitors are forced to continue their walk on bended knee, in a more primitive posture. Finally, in a total de-evolution, they are crawling in the playa dirt in emulation of our Cretaceous ancestors.

Although most visitors began the ammonite journey by entering the front of the installation, a few made their way back through the sculpture by starting with the inner circle in the middle of the ammonite, the way of evolution. Not surprisingly, they always seemed very relieved to walk upright again. The eldest person who crawled through was an 86 year old woman from Tucson, Arizona.

The Ammonite Project had its premiere installation in 1996 in the Moroccan Sahara and then made several appearances in Africa and Europe. The white spiral fossil sculpture has visited eight locations, attracting 150,000 visitors who have experienced the evolution from a mud creature to an upright walker.

Hendrik Hackl
Auerhahnstrasse 9
D-68309 Mannheim
       | Burning Man |
				   | gallery entrance |

		            | past exhibitions |

				            | Leonardo On-Line |