Dubbed RECESS (Resource Exhaustion Crisis Evacuation Safety Shelter), Person's project isn't some wonky, conceptual-art stunt, but a genuine reaction to these uncertain times, just like the growing Prepper Movement.
"The short answer is fear. Just purely fear," says Person when Asylum asked him why he spends his weekends designing bulletproof doors. Person had recently achieved the adult trifecta of wife-baby-house and found his protective instincts kicking into high gear -- so he decided to replace the pool with something a bit more useful.
"After a little while of careful thought, it really made logical sense to turn it into a bunker where I could store water and resources and food and weapons," says Person.
Keep reading to get an underground tour and learn how to make your own robot shotgun sentry.
Construction The first step for Person was to borrow designs from Army and FEMA field manuals, consult trade professionals and, in some cases, improvise from movies.
With no formal background in construction, Person wheeled in 20 yards of cement by hand to pour the bunker's 6-inch-thick, concrete rebar roof. With the addition of some creative landscaping, the shelter completely disappeared from sight.
Of course, a shelter is only as good as its front door, and Person went to great lengths to make sure you don't want to knock on his. Before you even reach it, you must slide through a hatch-like opening and into an antechamber specifically designed to discourage intruders from proceeding any further. Weighing 300 lbs., the steel door is reinforced with ballistics foam and angled iron, which is capable of withstanding rounds from an AR-15 at close range.
Inside the bunker, Person has local water and electric utilities hooked up, with solar panels, batteries and 300 gallons of water as backups for when he needs to go off the grid. A hand-crank filtration system cycles air in and out of the room and fiber-optic cabling provides a kind of periscope to gauge outside conditions and draws in UV light for growing plants. A concealed drain pipe allows for flood prevention, capturing rain water and the disposal of waste.
Finally, Person recognized that even safe rooms need a little cheering up, which is why he painted the space a TLC-friendly color. "Sitting in a room full of cinder block walls is kind of a drag," he says. "But when everything is painted bright white it feels a little nicer."
Where Does He Get Those Wonderful Toys?
For Person, the RECESS project doesn't end with the stockpiling of baked beans. The artist has also been getting what would amount to a merit badge in Thunderdome with his DIY survival projects. Person, doing his best MacGyver, has made everything from animal traps to solar stoves and even a Google map that plots the location of resources in his area. (Dear neighbors, your propane grill tanks have been duly noted.)
But by far the coolest -- and the accessory most likely to keep you out of Person's backyard -- is the homemade shotgun attached to the robot sentry. Person took 12-gauge shotgun plans out of an old Army manual and constructed his using bits of two-by-fours, steel pipe and rubber bands.
Then, using an open-source project available online, he created an automated sentry to mount it on. "If I was holed up in the bunker," Person explains, "the sentry would be outside the door. If somebody forced their way into the antechamber, rather than just a booby trap going off, it's an intelligent booby trap." The sentry analyzes video frames in real time for the largest moving target, which it then aims at, allowing the operator to either manually fire via computer or set to auto-fire.
Person says he's "blessed" to have an unusually patient and understanding wife who doesn't mind that the project has thus far run more than $30,000. And while it may be more for his family than his art, he nonetheless wonders how his peers in the gallery will view his latest work. "I'm interested in seeing how the art world receives this," he confesses. "But at the same time, I'm equally interested in the conversations I'm having with survivalists and preppers around the country who are emailing me."