Collection 1980s–Present

204

Michael Smith’s Government Approved Home Fallout Shelter Snack Bar

Ongoing

MoMA

Michael Smith. Government Approved Home Fallout Shelter Snack Bar. 1983
  • MoMA, Floor 2, 204

For over four decades, Michael Smith has produced videos, performances, and installations that feature his hapless middle-class persona, Mike, as a means of examining American culture and media. This work is based on a US government plan—issued in 1980, against the backdrop of Reagan-era Cold War politics—for a home fallout shelter that doubles as a snack bar. In Smith’s vision, Mike’s bunker, built in his suburban basement, is overstocked with “survival ration crackers” and canned food, as well as records, games, an easy chair, and liquor bottles.

This environment underscores the absurdity of pursuing recreation and leisure while living under the threat of annihilation. Mike appears in drawings, the video playing on the television, and an arcade game (one of the first created by a visual artist) in which he repeatedly carries cinder blocks down stairs to construct the shelter before the “big one drops.” A metaphor for nuclear war, the game is programmed to be unwinnable.

Organized by Erica Papernik-Shimizu, Associate Curator, with Gee Wesley, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Media and Performance.

1 work online

Artist

Installation images

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