Dan Peterman

Civillian Defense II, 2010

Installation | Installation dimensions variable

Navy trousers filled with provisions are tied to recycled plastic pallets. Fastened upon the knee they indicate events of war.

And emergency food is sadly a growth industry.

We face an escalation, globally, in the number of failed and failing states where the rule of law is eroding, local economies are weakening or collapsing, and sustainable food production is slipping away or already vanished. This is increasingly an ecologically driven equation as water resources are unsustainably depleted, desertification advances, oceans rise. Does this state of permacrisis necessarily engender a pattern of dependance on foreign aid (involving in one way or another the opportunistic insertion of global agri-business interests) or can it spawn a heightened commitment to the rebuilding of sustainable local agriculture and local food economies?

Recent military involvement in Afghanistan and Haiti highlights some of the complexity and confusion around these questions. In an effort to win the hearts of the Afghan people, the American military began airdropping food packs (Humanitarian Daily Rations or HDR’s). Questions emerged: What is the cultural significance of this mission and of the food choices? Does it matter that most are damaged upon impact with the ground and are therefore frequently spoiled and dangerous to eat? How do we address the visual confusion that occurred between the yellow packaging of these HDR’s and similarly sized and colored cluster bombs—which automatically arm themselves upon landing— both of which are airdropped and scattered in the landscape awaiting human approach? (Humanitarian Daily Ration packages are now »salmon« colored to avoid this deadly confusion).

In Haiti, military delivery of food aid in the wake of the 2010 earthquake rapidly grew into an international movement of Haitian farmers against Monsanto and the opportunistic intrusion of alien and destructive agricultural practices. Were less threatening options for providing rapid relief and rebuilding local food networks available?


Dan Peterman (*1960 Minneapolis, USA) lives and works in Chicago, USA.