A hoax to reach the South-Tyrolean population with a provocative news story about their region and the relationship between nature conservation and destruction in its tourism-based economy.
What, if the last areas of intact natural beauty in the Alps were fenced-in with 5-meters-high concrete walls?
What, if the access to these areas was exclusively granted to the wealthy guests of intacta Ltd. – Alpine Nature Resorts, a newly founded German tourism company?
What, if intacta Ltd. was on the point of building its first “isle of intact nature” in the Sarntaler Alps, a nature reserve in South-Tyrol?
The first part of the project consisted in setting up the fictitious tourism company intacta Ltd. – Alpine Nature Resorts . In the second part of the project the news that intacta would have soon started to operate in South-Tyrol was spread through the local media.
intacta Ltd. – Alpine Nature Resorts
intacta fences-in the last areas of intact natural beauty in the Alps with 5-meters-high concrete walls and restricts the access to these areas to an élite of wealthy tourists, who are the guests of the wellness hotels situated along the limits of these so-called “isles of intact nature”.
Conceiving intacta’s philosophy, giving it an identity and a website that imitated the look and feel of wellness resorts, and providing it with valid contact addresses were all key-elements in the process of making intacta Ltd. so real that not even investigating journalists could easily find out about its non-existence.
The tools that made the hoax work
1. The website www.intacta.org
Sections: welcome, news, about us, press kit, contacts. All the provided information were accurate and the contacts worked for real.
2. Publication of the concept of intacta Ltd. on the book Un Erhört
The book Un Erhört – Visionen des jungen Südtirols (Outrageous – Visions about South Tyrol), edited by Thomas Kager and Angelika Burtscher for Raetzia was the perfect occasion to have the concept of intacta Ltd. published on paper. Marco Eggerz, the imaginary founder of the company, figures as the author of the text. His CV was published as well.
3. The politician Hans Heiss supports intacta
The South-Tyrolean politician Hans Heiss (Green Party) supported the whole project from the beginning. He played the role of intacta’s contact person in South-Tyrol and published a praise to the company’s concept on his personal website. He confirmed the whole story when investigating journalists contacted him.
4. Working official contact addresses (telephone, fax, physical address, e-mail)
intacta Ltd. is based in Munich; the physical address exists for real. The telephone number (with Munich dialling code +89) was activated through a VoIP provider and we could answer the incoming phone calls over from our computer. Telephone number and physical address were registered at the on-line German telephone book and could be accessed on-line.
The tactic to launch the hoax
Once all the required elements for the hoax to work were in place, by adopting a tactic based on secret news about intacta leaking through to the media we managed to make local journalists believe that the company existed for real and that it was on the point of realising its first resort in a South-Tyrolean nature reserve.
We composed a fake fax from Marco Eggerz (the imaginary founder of intacta) to Christoph Engl (the director of the South-Tyrol Marketing Company – one of the most powerful persons in the region), in which Eggerz talks about secret negotiations with South-Tyrolean politicians and the realisation of the first concrete barrier. 12 copies of this fictitious document were then handed over to local journalists by an anonymous fictitious clerk of the South-Tyrolean Marketing Company, together with a protest letter in which the clerk complains about the ongoing secret negotiations.
The fake works
Two days after distributing the letter and the fax, the whole story was published on the front-page of the Dolomiten, the most important regional newspaper (56.000-77.000 copies sold daily; about 250.000 readers) and on other local papers.
One week after the first articles were published, we organised a press conference together with three tourism experts who were supporting the project. This, in order to explain the hoax, underline the message behind it and start a discussion.
The experts on our side were Hans Heiss, the local green politician from Bozen-Bolzano, Duccio Canestrini, a tourism anthropologist from Trento and Paul Rösch, director of the Touriseum, the tourism museum of Meran/Merano.
A big thank you goes to our friend Arni Eggerz, who moderated the discussion.
This event was followed by more newspaper articles, making the discussion last for about 2 weeks.
This project was developed during the academic year 2005/2006 as final thesis at the Faculty of Design and Art at the Free University of Bozen/Bolzano and was supervised by Simone Krois and Kris Krois.