a diy guide to surviving the end of your world

RECESS, resource exhaustion crisis evacuation safety shelter, surviving, survival, survival art, resource crisis, mass pandemic, hysteria, resource riot, Chad Person, chad person, person, Person, Chad Peron, chad peron, peron, photography, Chad, chad person art, surviving the end of your world, survivalist, survival man, bug out, building a bug-out, building a bomb shelter, building bomb shelter, bomb shelter

the project

12. 6.2009
recess_unearthed2.pngBuilding a Bunker
RECESS began 2 years ago when I made my home in the southwest United States. Like much of the West, our reliance on the continuous import of vital resources (food, water, medical supplies) is unsustainable and untenable. Crisis preparedness is vital, and RECESS is my answer. It is a re-model, an insurance policy, an experiment, a test of personal mettle, and an obsession. Survival is everything.

We Are The Many

A friend just shared this fantastic folk-rebellion song on facebook. I am shocked it has so few views. This is a really nicely put together piece that encapsulates a number of my personal frustrations with the current state of the Union.

Please enjoy and share. Let's take this country back!

*Update >> Makana played this at the APEC dinner in Honolulu this week! Read the full story here.

ATF encounter

This is the third post about my recent run in with the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives). A few months back, several of my sculptures (and a citizen complaint about them) led the ATF to accuse and later define me as an illegal firearms manufacturer and trafficker. Following a five month investigation, the ATF opted not to charge my for my alleged crimes and instead issued a Cease and Desist.

Perhaps the most interesting outcome was that the Cease and Desist letter had to be issued in person, signed and witnessed. This is the story of that brief encounter.

After my case was transferred from L.A. to the local field office I received a phone call from Special Agent Martinez, the agent in charge. Like every call I received from the Agency, her number came up unlisted on caller ID. The number carried the signature of an unassigned VOIP line (e.g. 00-2, etc.), which I am fairly certain they use for easy recording. This theory was solidified on an earlier call when agent asked, mid-call, to call me right back, then rang me with a 000 number and began a line of questioning I assume he'd recorded. Of course, I spoke to them exclusively on my Skype number for the exact same reason.

To get back to story, agent Martinez suggested we meet at 8:40 am in a lot next to a gas station in a light industrial part of town (seen above). A bit dramatic for sure, but assumed ATF agents spend a lot of time working out of their cars like beat cops. So, we exchanged vehicle descriptions and I showed up at the gas station about 15 min early on the morning in question.

BATFE StingAt exactly 8:40 AM the gray Dodge Charger I was expecting rolled into the lot and parked inches from my car (drivers door to drivers door). I sat there for about 90 seconds, with no cues (her windows were pitch black), until deciding she was waiting for me to make a move.

I got out and, as expected, she followed suit moments later. This is where the story gets interesting. Simultaneously a huge guy in plain (read: working in the yard) clothes gets out of a truck across the lot and hustles over to meet us. This guy had been there long before I showed up on the scene, and I had completely missed it. While I'm momentarily stunned by this set-up, Agent Martinez casually introduces herself and Agent Thug and pulls out the paperwork.

I felt owned, and I'm still a bit shocked to have been taken so seriously as to require backup; And not just backup, but backup forced to stake out a gas station at 8:00 AM on a Tuesday. I suppose these were gun charges after all (as ridiculous as that sounds), and in retrospect I think the agency demonstrated excellent planning and protocol. If I'm ever in a similar situation, I plan to bring a little discreet backup of my own. "Hi Agent Martinez, Agent Thug, I'm Chad and over there in that minivan is my wife and child; my neighbor Bob is at the diesel pump filling his dually, and my mother-in-law is on a plane headed back east that should be passing overhead right about now..."

In all seriousness, the agents were very professional and cordial. I signed the letter and a property release claim, and took copies for my records. I left feeling very relieved, but also very aware at how entirely unprepared I was in that situation. I was disarmed by my own trust and the assumptions I'd made about the apparent outcome. Point well taken.
The RECESS chicken cooperative has been moving along very well lately. The birds endured an unseasonably cold winter and emerged an incredibly productive lot this spring. We are now routinely seeing a dozen eggs per day, making the 10 minutes of daily chores well worth it to our members. Feed cost is stable, and manageable - though we've yet to procure an affordable source for organic feed. And, we haven't had any further trouble with the dogs.

Dead Chicken

Unfortunately, we had a rather sad day at the chicken coop last week. I discovered one of our Black Star hens dead, curled up underneath the lowest nesting shelf. The cause of death is somewhat of a mystery. I inspected the carcass (and the rest of the flock) and found no glaringly obvious signs of illness, physical attack, or other duress.

A volunteer reported to have seen a snake in the chicken yard a few days prior. It's possible the snake may have frightened or even bitten the hen, leading her to hide under the roost and die. This seems concurrent with the only physical anomaly I did spot: a small dark purple/black "bruise" a few inches from the dead bird's vent. Perhaps it was a snake bite? I have no idea. What I do know is that we have been having an incredibly dry spring, and the chickens' water tray may have lured in a rattler.

The dead hen also appears to have lost a number of feathers near the site, although this may have been due to decomposition, since she appears to have spent ~2-3 days on the hen house floor before I found her. If any chicken experts derive an alternate theory from this photo of the bird's carcass, I would love to hear it.

Five months ago one of my sculptures was seized by the ATF. Agents visited my art dealer with orders to confiscate "Improvised Shotgun - White" following a citizen complaint. The citizen/agency questioned the legality of the manufacturing and trafficking of the alleged weapon.

art seized by the BATFE
Last week, the lengthy (and undoubtedly expensive) investigation was closed. While I held my breath, ATF engineers spent months - or maybe just a day - attempting to fire a standard 12 gauge round through my improvised shotgun sculpture. In the end, they met with success.

While I have yet to see any evidence that the sculpture was successfully weaponized, the BATFE has informed me that they have classified my sculpture as a firearm, placing it within jurisdiction of the infamous Gun Control Act (GCA). Hence it would appear that, the act of making the sculpture and my transference of said sculpture to art gallery in Los Angeles was illegal.

ATF Cease and DesistAs outlined by the letter you see here (click to enlarge), the ATF considers my actions "unlawful manufacture and transfer of firearms" which carry the penalty of "imprisonment for not more than 5 years and/or a fine of up to $250,000." So, why am I not in jail? In a word; context. I am not an arms manufacturer, nor am I an arms trafficker - I am an artist. Fortunately, the ATF appears to agree.

Is it illegal to manufacture firearms and traffic them across state lines without proper permits, etc.? You bet it is; and I would highly recommend that you do not try this at home. However, given the context of my unique situation a decision was made to pass on enforcement of the crimes I allegedly committed. (I continue to maintain that there was no actual crime.)  

In an earlier post I remarked that questioning, researching and debating the laws we are forced to live by is the very essence of a democratic state. As an artist, I routinely push against boundaries, conventions, and in this instance, the GCA, in order to ask difficult questions about my life and the world around me. My art is speech, and my speech is protected. I can only assume that this was the rationale that led the ATF to issue me (in person) a cease and desist and take no further action.

ATF Abandoned Property ReleaseThis simultaneous vilification and vindication has been nothing short of inspirational. I am proud of the ATF for making what I believe is a sensible call, and thankful to not be engaged in a lengthy legal battle over the nature of my work. Whereas I am disheartened to lose the sculpture, since the BATFE has refused to return it to me, I will be writing it off as an unrecoverable business loss in 2012.

On a very personal note, I feel a renewed sense of purpose and faith in my work. This experience has reaffirmed that by continuing to ask questions and following my ideas to their natural end - regardless of difficulty or intimidation - I will inevitably find moments of truth and beauty.

*I am continuing to seek hard evidence (photographic/video) that the sculpture in question was successfully weaponized in the BATFE lab. If/when I obtain this, I will post a follow up.*
In the meantime, I would like to remind
anyone reading this post to read the disclaimers on my Project Statement Page and do your own research before undertaking any actions that may be dangerous or illegal where you reside.
It's been a full month since I last posted about the lovely ladies in the RECESS chicken co-op. The weather has chilled, the days have grown shorter, and the hens have truly settled in for the winter months. I'm happy to say it's been a really great month.

a chicken a the feed trough

To quickly recap; we had a bit of trouble with a dog in the first week. A few of the hens were injured, and there were serious concerns that our flock of 13 birds would become 12. Our flock is now holding strong at 14. The injured hens have miraculously recovered and we added a small black rooster. For $5, the little guy was worth his weight in gold. Making up in attitude what he lacks in stature, he has given the hens added confidence that I believe has led to a rise in production.

Considering the cool weather, relocation, and rocky beginning I couldn't be happier with our present results. Egg production has been steadily climbing, with our group averaging 8-10 eggs per day as of this week. We've been feeding the birds a diet of layer pellets, supplemented by occasional treats and table scraps.

Today, officers from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives in Los Angeles walked into Mark Moore Gallery and confiscated one of my recent pieces; "Improvised Shotgun: White."

art seized by the BATFE
The officers also requested the current location and bills of lading of recently shipped work of a similar nature. I assume they plan to seize these works as well. The receipt for the initial seizure is shown below.

BATFE seizes Improvised Shotgun:White, 11/18/10As of this posting, I have not received any official complaint, cease & desist, nor notice of any kind from the BATFE. Likewise, they've made no requests pending on other pieces in my growing body of RECESS work.

I assume that the actions of the BATFE are a misguided attempt to develop evidence against me for alleged crimes they believe I have committed.

As I have made clear on this blog, other internet sites, and through my demonstrated exhibition record and career - I am an conceptual artist. My highly public and often controversial works have at time created both challenging and meaningful public discourse. This is the nature of my purpose.

The seizure of my works is a seizure of my voice, and a terrible injustice. I believe the actions of the BATFE today are a violation of my first amendment rights, and an act of overt theft. I am saddened and deeply disgusted that in the midst of this terrible recession, Federal tax dollars are being spent to stifle my rights, seize my work, and question my patriotism.

Everything you can learn about me is here. It is in the combined effort of my labor and the illustration of my ideas. My works are my words, my passions, and my livelihood. Draw your own conclusions and pass this along if you refuse to believe in an America where questioning culture is a crime.

*Update* as of 1/27/11 the BAFTE has taken no formal action against me, nor have they returned my sculptures.

Whereas I personally feel this investigation is a shameful waste of federal funds, an obvious positive outcome is evidenced in the number of blog and forum posts spawned by this initial posting. I've said my piece on the issue, and I am glad to see others doing the same. Questioning, researching and debating the laws we are forced to live by is, in my opinion, the very essence of a democratic state.