Rationing Art: The 1983/84 Mass College of Art Civil Defense Performance

Fallout Five Zero was contacted a few weeks ago by Gretchen Baer, a former Mass College of Art student, asking if Mass College of Art was still considered a Fallout Shelter.

Figuring she had seen one of this site’s original posts and was intrigued by the shelter as a former student, I relayed that none of the buildings at MCOA (nor any former shelter) were technically a “shelter” any longer, but just a building with an old sign on it essentially, as the program had stopped being funded years ago.

What she wrote me back has been one of the most interesting stories I have ever been told regarding a public fallout shelter.

In 1984 we did an art performance using the survival crackers from 1964. There were lots of tins of crackers, water of some kind, sanitary pads, and I don’t recall what else. We were ( illegally) living in that cellar for a couple years while attending art school. 

At the time, we named the space we used for our installation, “The Crackatorium” after the survival crackers. Our art piece was called “the Loaf”. We opened up the tins and filled the room with the crackers, then added water with a hose. People jumped in it until we created a giant loaf the size of a small car. We used the tins as drums for percussion during event. 

I found out recently Mass Art still calls the gallery The Crackatorium, as well as another gallery they call the South Crackatorium. Of course no one remembers why it’s called this, except a few of us.
I decided it’s time to revisit the subject and am considering an art show called “Crackatorium Revisited”. 

By the way, we ate some of those crackers, they were terrible!

She was then kind enough to provide some photos of the event.

I think the year was 1983. This is Karen with the crackers. That entire closet was full of the crackers. Janitors were sniffing around prior to event saying ” I smell F#cking crackers!” We were sweating it because the school had no idea what our performance actually entailed. The President of the school was seen at the closet door with a janitor getting ready to open ( a room full of crackers would have fallen on him, as we emptied them directly up from the basement into that closet). Luckily a friend managed to sweet talk him into not opening that door. 😀

Gretchen relays that should Mass College of Art allow a follow up performance, it may be in September 2017. If so, Fallout Five Zero will provide updates.

Above photos owned by Gretchen Baer. Text relayed as written by Ms. Baer and not changed in any way. 

FFZ would like to thank Ms. Baer for providing this story and the accompanying photos of the performance.

Have a similar shelter related story? Let us know.

© 2017 Fallout Five Zero


4 thoughts on “Rationing Art: The 1983/84 Mass College of Art Civil Defense Performance

  1. Our art show is confirmed. The opening will be on September 28th, at Mass Art “Crackatorium”. We would appreciate your help.! If you have any fallout shelter items you would consider displaying it would truly add to our show. Thanks! Gretchen

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