100 Ways to Avoid Dying,
The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, March 15 - June 16 2013

Borrowing from the archaeology museum’s underlying framework of excavation, documentation, and display, 100 Ways to Avoid Dying offers up a dystopian vision of planning by investigating the way in which fears of the future or the unknown are mediated by objects. In this body of work, I probe the forces that drive paranoia. Tracing the material culture that is precipitated by extremes of preparation, I present the stuff of survivalists in the form of an archive—tin cans, batteries, bunkers, and fuel—reconfigured in rubber, cardboard, polystyrene, and paper, to create facsimiles of increasingly compulsive systems of alternative logic.

The title of this piece derives from a list first published in Farmer’s Almanac in 1990. Written by the Almanac’s long-time editor, Tim Clark, the list served as much as a tongue-in-cheek rulebook on folk wisdom as a testament to survival (for example: “Number 13: Don’t ever, ever rock an empty rocking chair”), yet the list was given new life when it reappeared in the mid-1990’s on fringe Bulletin Board System (BBS) survivalist forums. Between 1960 and 1990, BBS allowed computers to trade information across phone lines before the Internet, often in the most universal format possible—plain text or .txt files. Survivalist boards tended to attract particularly colorful contributions that merged radicalism, politics, and self-reliance. In 1991, Tim Clark’s goofy, superstitious list shows up in earnest alongside “The Fundamentals of Fallout” and “Survival 101.” I appropriate the title for use in my inventory, constructing my exhibition around an index of 100 things that enact this mad pursuit to “avoid dying.”

At the heart of my work are the objects themselves. How do our possessions act as stand-ins for the unpredictable? Comforts in the face of the unknown? The evidence of labor visible in much of my work questions how the ritual of planning, creating, and refining a collection—the very act of staying busy when faced with a looming sense of what could be—endows a person with agency and a sense of control over the ungovernable.