Survival School

Hideous Beast has presented 2 versions of Survival School to date. See below for more information.

3.23.12 – 4.20.12

Survival School is an exhibit examining the aesthetic and ideological dimensions of survivalist culture through the lenses of art education and the art world.

For this exhibit we have asked professors and students at Houghton to engage in a series of survival-related activities. The goal of these collaborations is to explore how a liberal arts education (and specifically an education in visual art) attempts to prepare students to be citizens (and artists) in the same way survivalist communities share skills and resources to prepare for unknown dangers. In both cases, the activities become a representation of collective fears and desires, and a model for potential future worlds.

As artists traveling to a new place with the goal of producing an exhibition (and sustaining our practice), we are ostensibly faced with a survival situation. Away from the familiar tools and amenities of home, we have chosen to use the particular ecology of Houghton to our advantage. In effect, the students and professors have graciously assisted us in completing the exhibition.

For the drawing assignment we have asked students to gather local plants, attempt to identify them and then create observational drawings. Many survival handbooks focus on learning about edible and medicinal plants. This activity reinforces the link between seeing and knowing.

During the installation of the exhibition we asked gallery visitors (mainly students) to share survival stories on camera in front of a painted backdrop with fake firelight and nature sounds. Communities learn together through shared oral narratives. The recorded survival stories will be screened for the duration of the exhibition.

Accordingly we needed to construct a viewing area. We worked with students to build a variety of shelters and seating using twine and found materials from the surrounding woods. As with any skills learned in school (painting, algebra, etc.), these activities become the basic building blocks for solving a variety of problems in the world.

List of Works:

Camp Craft (shelf and resource library), 2012
wood, twine, rocks, flowers, nails, books

Drawing (observational, plant), 2012
paper, graphite, charcoal

Camp Craft (seating)
, 2012
wood, twine, rope

Survival Stories (video projection), 2012
video, projector

Survival Stories (set), 2012
tripod, camera, fan, wood, paper, lighting, canvas, rope, paint bucket, five-channel audio

Camp Craft (cairn), 2012

More Documentation:


Trinity Christian College and the Department of Art and Design presents
Hideous Beast Survival School
January 31–February 25, 2010

Feb 17 | Observational Drawing

Seerveld Gallery, 5-7pm
A plant drawing and recognition workshop. Drawing materials will be provided. Bring found vegetation to add to the collection.

Feb 24 | Camp Crafts
Seerveld Gallery, 5-7pm
A workshop dedicated to making traps, shelters and knots. Materials will be provided but please bring some to share.

Feb 17 & 24 | Camp food will be provided at both workshops. Bring your favorite camp food and a survival story to share.

Feb 25 |
Artist Slide Lecture, 6pm

ARCC Lobby

Reception, 7pm
Seerveld Gallery

Survival School

If you visit the website of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists[1], a University of Chicago-based organization born in 1945 of participants in the Manhattan project with the self-stated purpose of informing the public about “threats to the survival and development of humanity from nuclear weapons, climate change, and emerging technologies in the life sciences,” you can follow a timeline of the Doomsday Clock – a metaphoric clock which illustrates how close the world might be to Midnight, or “catastrophic destruction.” Since the clock’s inception in 1947, the farthest we have been from the “apocalypse” is 17 minutes when in 1991 the Cold War had officially ended. On January 14 of this year, 2010 the bulletin announced we had gained a minute since 2007, with positive political shifts in the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty[2], and ambitious goals to limit carbon emissions at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen[3].

With 6 minutes ostensibly representing an imminent apocalyptic reality to our insulated Middle-American experience and numerous other rumors of threats to civilization, what interests us is the subject of preparedness – a state of readiness. Survivalist culture’s emphasis on planning and self-reliance resembles higher education’s promise of increased employment qualifications and financial stability. Given the recent economic downturn and accompanying increase in unemployment, education appears to provide the means to subsist in a situation of scarcity. It is not surprising that fear is an incentive to prepare, but the difficulty lies in understanding the prevalence of this practice among seemingly disparate ideologies.

Liberal arts students, NRA members, investment bankers, hurricane survivors, most world religions – all are bound by traditions and practices that attempt to insure a future world. The form these rituals take thoroughly shapes both the context in which we live and our future. To understand the present situation we must understand the formal and aesthetic qualities of preparation tactics. Mimicking Minimalism’s method of paring down form to implicate perception and the body we have created an installation and series of events that use the gallery as an existential framework for investigating preparedness. These experiments serve as creative interpretations of survivalist activities. They are attempts to understand how the character of preparation can structure future actions and how aesthetics can provide a flexible engagement with an unpredictable world.


Some documentation: