Introduction to the DIY Survival Kit


“DIY Survival Kit” is an edition of 65 by artist Whitney Lynn designed to prepare you for the ultimate disaster.  Whether an earthquake, tornado, or chemical weapon attack, Lynn provides you with the essentials: a barterable good, a weapon, and a means to keep your mind off the bleakness of your situation.  Nothing in the kit, however, is complete.  She gives you the materials and the inspiration, but if you are going to survive – you are going to have to Do it Yourself.

Lynn’s Kit draws inspiration equally from survivalist subcultures and more left leaning do-it-yourself (DIY) movements. She writes:

I am interested in exploring the way survivalism stands at the extreme end of renewed interests in self-sufficiency and sustainability. I am also interested in looking at the role of aesthetics and branding in altering the way survivalism is viewed.

Survivalism is born out of creative acts, but is also symptomatic of a culture of fear and isolation. The question I’m interested in is where is the line between the Unabomber’s and Thoreau’s cabin; the urban homesteader or the survivalist?

sticker_larger sticker_larger sticker_larger

Whitney Lynn is a multi-media artist who explores the messy intersections between political, military, and civilian cultures. Her work has been exhibited at venues such as Exit Art, New York; Southern Exposure, San Francisco; the Headlands Center for the Arts, Sausalito, CA; and the 1708 Gallery, Richmond, VA. She is the recipient of travel grants from the College Art Association and the Southeastern College Art Conference and her work has received critical attention from a number of publications including The New York Times, Daily Serving and Style Weekly. Born on an Air Force Base in Williams, AZ, she received her BFA in Sculpture + Extended Media from Virginia Commonwealth University and her MFA in New Genres from the San Francisco Art Institute.

Interview with Whitney Lynn

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

icon for podpress  Interview with Whitney Lynn [25:30m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

And I feel Fine by Heidi De Vries

It is a truth universally acknowledged that many Californians, despite willingly living on land that could open up at their feet and swallow them whole at any given moment, possess nothing even remotely resembling a proper emergency kit.  Until very recently I was no exception.  I was born and raised in California and have ridden out more earthquakes than I care to count, and still it took me until I was in my early 30s before I finally ordered a pre-packed bag full of emergency supplies from the Red Cross.  Of course my grasp of what to do with the many items in that backpack is tenuous at best, but I’m operating under the assumption that if disaster strikes I’ll have a spare moment to read its enclosed manual.

Upon first inventory the purpose of the contents of Whitney Lynn’s survival kit might seem similarly mysterious, but here too there is a manual.  Her pamphlet immediately inspires confidence with its promise of useful information, its cover printed with an official-looking logo as well as a variety of acronyms that could be military codes.  Lynn did not make these up; they are actual acronyms that would be familiar to anyone in the survivalism movement.  For example, “SHTF” stands for “Shit Hits The Fan”.  “TEOTWAWKI” is “The End Of The World As We Know It”.  Survivalists do have a sense of humor.

By inviting participation in the piece Lynn quickly draws you into an imagined narrative, encouraging you to picture yourself in a situation in which this kit might be necessary and useful.  Perhaps you’ve chosen to sequester yourself away in the woods to kick-start your creative process with a dose of isolation and would use the items to meet some of your basic needs, like the alcohol you can make with the yeast and the balloon.  In a more pessimistic scenario, perhaps one of the laundry list of catastrophes called out in the pamphlet has occurred and it’s every individual for themselves, in which case assembly of the DIY Survival Weapon, cleverly labeled as such, takes on a new sheen of urgency.  In any event you can always draw motivation from the artwork on the back of the pamphlet, included to provide inspiration.

Our ancestors who lived a lot closer to the land than many of us do might be puzzled about why we would need this kit, and they would also probably laugh at the earnestness with which the present-day sustainability movement exhorts all human beings to reduce/reuse/recycle.  There was a time when such a philosophy wasn’t even optional.  However, in these days of industrial agriculture and the supermarkets’ pale, hothouse-grown tomatoes, it can feel like a powerful decision to eat a fresh heirloom from a home garden or a local farm.  But then ideas about self-sufficiency are taken to a whole other level by the modern survivalists who in the case of societal collapse are prepared to live completely by their own means — and surrounded by all the supplies they have purchased in advance.

Lynn has chosen banal, everyday objects for her kit but invests them with unexpected meanings by framing them up within the new context of “failure management“, and in this way she nods to the genuine resourcefulness and creativity required to be a successful survivalist.  She has also created a cohesive brand for the kit that slyly pulls from survivalism literature and terminology, referencing both the consumerist culture that survivalists need in order to stock their bunkers as well as the fear of its disintegration that drives their actions.  Buy early and buy often, before there are no stores left.

The ideal of stubborn individualism is deeply ingrained in the stories of the early United States, from almost-mythical figures like Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett to images of the ‘49ers and other pioneers staking out new territory during the country’s insatiable expansion west.  Modern survivalists might feel like they are tapping into that spirit of the original American do-it-yourselfers when they visualize themselves hunkering down alone in a well-provisioned cabin.  Except the people who actually did survive in those days of yore were the ones who turned to their neighbors for mutual help and support instead of locking their doors against them.

Heidi De Vries works as a manager at an advertising company by day and freelances as a writer and a music consultant.  She is also a volunteer DJ at KALX Berkeley 90.7fm, and though her show is currently on hiatus she would be happy to recommend some awesome tunes for you anytime. You can find her at her blog, Engineer’s Daughter.

Annotated Links

Reading Material

Improvised Modified Firearms: Deadly Homemade Weapons

The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Living in the Heart of the City

U.S. Army Survival Manual “21-76″ (online PDF version) – Army Survival Manual is the finest single source for self-reliance for all extreme circumstances. A must for anyone who wants to know how to survive in primitive conditions.

Cooking with Surplus and Excess

SAS Essential Survival Guide – Practical survival handbook based on SAS training and techniques, taught to members of that coveted special forces cadre. The guidecovers every aspect of survival in the world’s most inhospitable places.


– MAKE Magazine brings the do-it-yourself mindset to all the technology in your life. MAKE is loaded with exciting projects that help you make the most of your technology at home and away from home. We celebrate your right to tweak, hack, and bend any technology to your own will.

SFGate Article about layouffs at the once-independent DIY magazine ReadyMade caused by the declining revenues of its parent company, media conglomerate Meredith Corp.

Dwell Magazine


“Helping You Live The Life You Want, If Times Get Tough, Or Even If They Don’t”

Survival Seed Bank lets you plant a full acre crisis garden

Somewhere in-between:

Moonshine Returns!  an entertaining article on by Catherine Price explaining the history of Moonshine and it’s new, still illegal, resurgence.

Share your stories: Pen Guns, Survival Shelters, Survival Kits, Wine and Spirits recipes

This is a space to share your stories – whether the method of making pen guns that you grew up with or shelters you’ve experienced, please let us know how this piece resonates with you.


Barry Wise wrote:

During the 50′s my family was invited to visit a neighbor’s bomb shelter. It was pretty cool actually. And trendy! I remember, they had a cocktail party the night they showed it off. Wanting to keep up with the Joneses, my father dutifully stocked one of our downstairs rooms with canned goods and toiletries. However, unlike the neighbor’s shelter which was underground and presumably radiation-proof, our little room was above ground. Luckily, we never needed it. The Whitney Lynn stuff really does make you think about it all though. I can also see how Californians would either be obsessed by it, or just ignore it, with all the earthquakes, mudslides, etc.

Web hosting that supports artists.


  • TPG21
  • TPG20
  • TPG19
  • TPG18
  • TPG17
  • TPG16
  • TPG15
  • TPG14
  • TPG13
  • TPG12
  • TPG11
  • TPG10
  • TPG9
  • TPG8
  • TPG7
  • TPG6
  • TPG5
  • TPG4
  • TPG3
  • TPG2
  • TPG1

Lego Hello World
I wish all my printers were made of legos.

LIFE photo archive hosted by Google
Images from Life Magazine going back to 1860′s, hosted by Google

Coming Face To Face With The President
Well crafted story about an under-heard point of view.

In California, Pot Is Now an Art Patron
A new funding source for the arts – reaping big rewards and funding many projects.  It’s pot.

Notes on Portraiture in the Facebook Age

Celebrity Book Club: A List to End All Lists
Because, well, it’s sortof awesome.

Are "Artists' Statements" Really Necessary?
The pros and cons about that nemesis for most artists.

This to That
You tell it what you’ve got and it’ll tell you what to glue them together with.

Work of art: Online store for buyers, sellers
Not the TV show!  Kelly Lynn Jones from Little Paper Planes is interviewed on her project, gives us a cheat sheet to local affordable art resources.

How to make a Daft Punk helmet in 17 months