S/H/O/O/K: The Edible Earthquake

At 4:30 a.m on January 17th in 1994 the San Fernando Valley became a veritable plate of jello as the Los Angeles area convulsed for nearly 20 seconds, turning everything from buildings to overpasses into a crumbling heap of concrete. The Northridge earthquake once again exposed us Angelenos that below our sprawling glamorous and glittering crust lies a dormant underbelly that may devour us all.

S/H/O/O/K (Surviving Humans Of Other Kinds) was an immersive installation at Barnsdall park by Tony Banuelos Ban-Jo, Peter Culley, and Jason Keller that indulges in one key potential disaster side effect: when faced with and in proximity to a disaster, people often become prosocial, helping one another and gathering together. With this event, we prompted an open expression of the prosocial by inviting participants to collectively construct the entire event with one another by building the tables and assembling the emergency DIY lanterns. Food was then distributed much like it would be in actual disaster relief scenario, through cafeteria-style self-service. The idea of S/H/O/O/K was to simulate as many of the prosocial behaviors that can emerge in reaction to the instability of a natural disaster, which is extremely different from the highly controlled procedures of preparedness that often fall somewhere between the practical and the paranoid. The goal was to have participants disassemble the building-scale food pantry protecting the hidden fermenting crisis-relief foods locked inside, the structure was both a practical efficient storage shed and a temple covered in a symbology for worship. The conclusion of this month-long ferment was a meal where the pantry was mined for its contents whilst its façade was put to new use as a prosocial meeting place and communal dining area with the hope that all the survival items contained within the pantry would take on a new significance for those who attended. 

 Jessica Wang, David Anthony David (aka D.A.D) and Tony Banuelos stocked the shelves of the pyramid pantry with a conceptual MRE (Meal Ready to Eat), a mixture of fermentation, dry goods, foraged ingredients, and off the shelf foods that were based on the specificity of the surrounding Los Angeles neighborhoods of Hollywood. What’s important is that all three uniquely approach the Meal Ready-to-Eat from different positions that are unified in S/H/O/O/K, an acronym for Surviving Human Of Other Kinds. The acronym, like this ethnically diverse MRE, proposes that on the other side of the disaster, we become another kind of human, mutually bound by the experience of helping each other survive, emphasizing the universal sameness of our vulnerability. 

Lastly, we at Los Angeles Eats Itself attempted to examine the concept of disaster preparedness as a blending of both survival function and opportunistic fantasy. Like any disaster, the Los Angeles impending ‘big one’ necessitates intense pragmatic planning and crisis forecasting. But also the sunk costs of intense preparation could inadvertently create an actual yearning for this dreaded Armageddon. Why? Perhaps to validate the investment, or maybe to indulge in the pleasure of primal ‘role play’ via the assembled tools so that we may finally test our skills. The biblically-proportioned potential of this disaster becomes a step towards extracting a feeling of the sublime, or what philosopher Kant called ‘good’ art: something that leaves us both contemplating our vulnerability with a renewed sense of awe since there is no corresponding representation we can provide for the immensity that is our experience.  

This event would not have been possible without the generous grant from the Department of Cultural Affairs of Los Angeles and CurrentLA:




Additional sponsorship has been provided by:


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Images from S/H/O/O/K: