While some companies are dawdling for as long as possible when it comes to preparing for climate change, artist Tattfoo Tan isn’t going to sit around while six inches of sea level rise accumulate over the next century. So, this summer, he displayed his latest disaster preparedness plan: A catamaran stocked with dried food for the next crisis.
“The biggest problem we face is a philosophical one: understanding that this civilization is already dead,” Tan writes on the catamaran, or New Earth Apocalypse Knowledge Advancement (NEAKA), website. “The sooner we confront this problem, and the sooner we realize there’s nothing we can do to save ourselves, the sooner we can get down to the hard work of adapting, with mortal humility, to our new reality.”
Some might call this a grim point of view. But Tan sees it as pragmatic. Despite the fact that he’s dedicated the last several years of his work to preparing for climate change disaster scenarios, he tells me he doesn’t worry too much. But when Sandy hit, in 2012, Tan was one of the several inundated Staten Islanders who didn’t have access to grocery stores for five days.
Since then, Tan’s been amassing a stockpile of dried food, called “Meals Ready to Eat,” or MREs. In addition to showing the catamaran, he’s also held workshops on how to make MREs at the waterfront Smack Mellon Gallery in Dumbo.
But for a project that’s been at least a year in the works, there’s one feature of the catamaran that might not make much sense. Namely, it doesn’t float.
Tan says that the boat is deliberately devoid of seaworthiness. “The catamaran is a symbol of climate change,” Tan tells me over the phone. “Due to our needs and consumption, all of these things have been shipped from far away places, and when climate change happens, you have people displaced, refugees.”
Instead, the boat serves as a giant, skeletal vault for the MREs. Tan will also continue giving demonstrations on how to make your own disaster food at various exhibits.
“In facing real climate change, there will be people who lose their lives. So the symbol represents a spiritual journey on a boat,” he continues. “I designed it so that the skeleton always looks like a ghost boat.”