Photo: Julia Sinkowicz/Motherboard

Hacker Tent City: a Photo Tour of Chaos Communication Camp 2015

Aug 20 2015, 10:00am

Photo: Julia Sinkowicz/Motherboard

Our tent isn't even up and my friendly neighbor has already hacked his electronic name badge and, in honor of us, changed its display to a ASCII version of the VICE logo.

We see a recreational vehicle a few feet behind us tricked out with devices that make it look like a television news van from the inside and, from there, look out over the tent village that's dotted with dusty couches in flower prints. Two groups have already set up several rail cars on the train tracks that wander around the old brickyard.

Manipulating what's around you, and the desire to self-organize, are inherent to both the event and the DNA of its participants. That's what you get when you go to Chaos Communication Camp, which could also be called hacker Woodstock. The merry, socialist camping grounds is set up for intercommunication among 4,500 nerds and geeks, and it has transformed the open-air museum of Ziegeleipark Mildenberg into a summery tech utopia.

The Camp offers a relaxed and productive getaway for members and fans of Chaos Computer Club, the largest European organization of hackers, who want to have some fun away from their keyboards, make friends, discuss politics, and tinker with the stuff they bring along.

The hackers installed a 10 gigabit uplink with miles of fiber optic cables in the middle of nowhere in the former East German state of Brandenburg. There are around 1,500 volunteer "angels" who keep the tent city up and running, providing the kind of comfort that recalls a vacation on the countryside and also attracts a lot of families and children alongside a little lake for swimming and a few wild boar piglets in the woods.

A lot of people at CCC don't like having their picture taken, as you can imagine, but we tried to do our best to document the sights without disturbing anyone's closely-guarded privacy.

View of the campgrounds from the Brahma Gupta-rail. Photo: Julia Sinkowicz/Motherboard

Our neighbor took to the console for ten minutes and then displayed the Vice logo on his rad1o badge. "It was actually pretty easy." Photo: Julia Sinkowicz/Motherboard

Industrial romanticism on the field with guerrilla knit bombs on rusty farm equipment. Photo: Julia Sinkowicz/Motherboard

These friendly folks are responsible for all the carpentry done on site as well as the many well-received light installations. Photo: Julia Sinkowicz/Motherboard

This DIY map of the site is marked with stickers that give the rough location of the individual villages. Photo: Julia Sinkowicz/Motherboard

Fairy Dust at dusk. Photo: Julia Sinkowicz/Motherboard

At nightfall the camp awakens and reveals its beaming beauty among the rusty romanticism of industrial ruins that make up the Ziegeleipark in Mildenberg, the impressive light installations around the giant rocket they've named Fairy Dust, and between the tents (by the way the best parties in our opinion were in the Italian embassy and the CCC branch from Münster, C4, where DJane was spinning Smith'n'Hack—of course—shortly after 5 AM).

I keep hearing from both hackers as well as CCC speakers like nexus how much they cherish the direct, analog exchange with the most diverse group of like-minded people—and that here they "can just be they way they are." Accordingly, the CCCamp is home to a lot go benign nerd humor ("I'm heading off to Simulacron [one of the event tents]." "Could you detach your shadow and leave it here with me?"). There was also obviously tons of friendly, unforced-informal dialogue in their universe of common interests, whether it be classic topics like surveillance, digital rights, or security—all with an emphasis on societal discourse.

The lecture series included a talk on the hearing in Karlsruhe on government trojans (brilliantly delivered by Constanze Kurz, as always), as well as an introduction to satellite hackers and the first poetic steps attempted by a versifying bot, which has been fed with all texts from Wikipedia and German rappers Sido and KIZ ("From the curb to mountain heights … it beautifully cocks the street: Homie, the high rapper").

The site at night: a mixture of music festival and Project Blinkenlights. Photo: Julia Sinkowicz/Motherboard

"We set ourselves up in this village, because they offer 'endless breakfast' and you can drink apple juice chilled with dry ice there." Photo: Julia Sinkowicz/Motherboard

These little trains would go around the camp once in a while, acting as slow choo-choo cocktail bars with a ball pit (not in this image). Photo: Julia Sinkowicz/Motherboard

Of course the CCC was omnipresent. Photo: Julia Sinkowicz/Motherboard

Picturesque Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster on the brick building. Photo: Julia Sinkowicz/Motherboard

The entry tunnel to the c-base home base with Berlin's television tower in the background. Photo: Julia Sinkowicz/Motherboard

Reinforcements. Photo: Julia Sinkowicz/Motherboard

"We calculated it and constructed it. It was a little tough, because all of the pieces are at different angles." Photo: Theresa Locker/Motherboard

Everything at the CCCamp is an inside joke—even the provisional street names. Photo: Julia Sinkowicz/Motherboard

Then it's time to start taking the camp down. The 10,022 devices connected to the Wi-Fi on site dissipate in all directions, along with their owners. The miles of fiber optic cables were rolled up to be taken to the next camp in four years.