"Never ever, ever, ever, ever... Not in this universe or any other."
December 28, 2016 10:45 AM   Subscribe

Rafaël Rozendaal's mysterious website/artwork closedshut.com, a virtual safe with a combination lock, has stood unopened since its creation in 2009. The artist has released a definitive statement regarding the combination on his website, about which he is asked frequently. This would seem to imply that there there is a combination, and that it can be unlocked, however that may not necessarily be the case. posted by Krazor (17 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see anything in the links to imply a combination doesn't exist.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 10:56 AM on December 28, 2016

Soon to be permanently closed with the reduced use of adobe flash in newer browsers.
posted by sammyo at 10:57 AM on December 28, 2016 [5 favorites]

There could be something much cleverer going on here, but looking at the decompiled Flash file suggests to me that the thing doesn't open. There are scripts to handle interaction with the dial, but it looks like the numbers from it just get logged to the console and don't actually go anywhere. I love conceptual art/puzzles but I think this is a lock without any way of opening.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 10:58 AM on December 28, 2016 [13 favorites]

My personal opinion is that the title, "Closed Shut" implies that it only gives the illusion of a combination, and that it is not intended to open. Rafaël's statement is also a reflection of this, if read a certain way. He will not reveal the combination because he physically cannot, because it doesn't exist.
posted by Krazor at 11:03 AM on December 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

is this Frog Fractions 3
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:06 PM on December 28, 2016 [13 favorites]

That's funny, it opened for me on the first try but I can't remember what numbers I used. :)
posted by sheldman at 12:20 PM on December 28, 2016

This is that recurring nightmare -- maybe you get it too -- where it's the first day of senior year and I've forgotten the combo to my high school book locker.
posted by notyou at 12:35 PM on December 28, 2016 [4 favorites]

That's funny, it opened for me on the first try but I can't remember what numbers I used. :)
Nice try, Fermat.
posted by Schmucko at 12:54 PM on December 28, 2016 [11 favorites]

I also took a look at the decompiled flash, and OverlappingElvis is right. It does not open.
posted by durandal at 2:08 PM on December 28, 2016

[Note: I have not decompiled the flash, I am going on the work above me. Thank you to those who have put work into this already!]

This is cast as an art piece. I think that's important to remember.

Were there no indication in the code that the numbers were going anywhere, I would lean towards the idea that this a piece on how humans interact with things that appear to pose a challenge. But the numbers are going to a console log somewhere, which mean that they're capable of being read. Allow me the indulgence to speculate on what could be going on if this is just a simple safe graphic that will, one day, open in the same browser format.

Perhaps the artist suspected that people would decompile the flash and thus be able to see (roughly) what would happen if the correct combination was entered. Had the flash been written particularly badly, the combination itself could have been revealed. Instead, we see that the flash present does one thing - the presentation of a safe with usual function and then pushing the numbers entered to a console log... which is being monitored by an associated program that will change the webpage if the correct code is entered.

For the artist to not reveal the code could be because he chooses not to but there are many ways he could legitimately not know while the safe still has a code: random generation at initialisation or time-stepped comparison between the two parts are only two ways this could happen. But this assumes that we are accepting the web page as if it is a safe and art is pretty notorious about making us question our assumptions. You don't need Magritte's (non)Pipe or Korzybski's "map is not the territory" to be wary of trusting artists and that definitely includes anything presented to you by a 21st century artist.

The first approach, mentioned above, is that this is a safe that will never open despite giving the impression that it will. But this seems, to be frank, far too simple.

The second approach is that the representation of the safe and the thing that it opens are not in the same place. Because the numbers are going somewhere, we immediately can posit a system where they are used somewhere that is outside of what we can see.

Do these numbers open something else? Does someone guess the combination every few months and the artist's blinds go up or his closet door fly open? Or has he decoupled the opening action from such literal interpretations and every combination contributes micropayments to a public loan site, opening up the future for people based on a translation of human effort from one frame to another? Or, after ten years, will the artist compare the effort that went into opening the safe with another comparator: the 'free funding' click sites or walking around the Earth or something like this?

I have absolutely no idea and these suggestions are merely scratching the surface of everything that could be going on behind this rather banal screen.

By treating this as art, I am forced to think about why I treat things that look like safes as safe, what the role of the safe is, what opening means, how I think about protection, freedom, and the technological systems that we use to protect the things that are important to us.

If I'm right, one day the author can reveal the project without ever having given away the combination. I suppose we'll have to wait and see.
posted by nfalkner at 10:33 PM on December 28, 2016 [4 favorites]

I tinkered for a little while, tracked down the artist's birthday, tried that, didn't work. Of course it didn't.

Then I began wondering whether or not the combination had even been set yet, and whether the reason that Rozendaal cannot reveal it is because he can never know it; the idea being a little joke on the fact that people often use their birthdays as the secret keys to such things but - hitherto never - the just as significant date at the other end of their lives that they can never know.

I hope I never find out I was right about this perhaps puerile conjecture.
posted by motty at 11:20 PM on December 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

My brother spent years methodically sequencing through the 5 numbers on a lock box my father kept in the tool room, presumed to contain weapons or valuables or both. It finally opened on 99999.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:25 AM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

But StickyCarpet, what was in it?! How can you leave us hanging like that?
posted by Xoder at 6:39 AM on December 29, 2016 [5 favorites]

There was nothing in StickyCarpet's dad's vault
But it wasn't Geraldo's fault
posted by Chrysostom at 11:01 PM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

StickyCarpet, this is cruel and unusual punishment.
posted by pjmoy at 1:39 PM on December 30, 2016

2016 was in it. That lock box should never have been opened.
posted by nfalkner at 3:48 PM on December 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

But StickyCarpet, what was in it?!

Oh, sorry. What was in it that got our attention was a not very fancy 38 caliber revolver and ammunition. My father had hinted that he would have a gun considering he had built a lead-lined bomb shelter behind our underground garage, and it didn't have enough room to fit all of our neighbors should that become an issue.

My brother secretly took the gun out from time to time and went places to shoot targets and occasional birds. That was the one big transgression that he didn't get busted for.

However, he did have a problem when he put one of the bullets in a vise, pointing down into a bucket of towels, and triggered it with a hammer and nail.

The bullet was safely contained, but considering that our work room was a converted cement block coal bin, the sound was contained and he and wasn't prepared for the sound so he temporarily lost his hearing. For 2 or 3 days his ears were also ringing.

He decided not to tell our parents, and for a week or so he just smiled and nodded at the dinner table. He was relieved when his hearing did come back to an appreciable degree after about a week.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:43 PM on January 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

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