Collection 1980s–Present


Michael Smith’s Government Approved Home Fallout Shelter Snack Bar



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


Installation images

How we identified these works

In 2018–19, MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. That project has concluded, and works are now being identified by MoMA staff.

If you notice an error, please contact us at [email protected].


If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

MoMA licenses archival audio and select out of copyright film clips from our film collection. At this time, MoMA produced video cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. All requests to license archival audio or out of copyright film clips should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For access to motion picture film stills for research purposes, please contact the Film Study Center at [email protected]. For more information about film loans and our Circulating Film and Video Library, please visit

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].