Peter Fend (USA)
Because my parents were well educated but also maladjusted in the U.S. possibly due to their Bavarian and Swedish backgrounds, but also possibly due to the smarter one’s (Mom’s) craziness, I had a high-class academic education, but lived a dirt-poor life. To get to school each day, I would hitchhike. To travel to college, I did the same. With such a contrast between education and economics, I turned to dirt, or Nature, for survival.
But before the economic collapse, I already had three forms of survival training with Nature.
Under pressure from Mom, who idolized peasants, I worked in fields, doing what would now be called child labor. Then, following a decision of Dad’s, I spent part of two summers in a survival camp run by a West Point athletics coach, where to get enough food to survive while canoeing across northern North America, one had to fish, strangle birds, stone game, find berries, anything (we had no weapons). Finally, when older, I “helped” a lobster-fisherman.
When lack of money forced me out of college, I camped out in the Rockies by a trout stream for a while, building ski-lifts in the daytime. Then I traveled east to work on a fishing boat and shifted to the fish docks of New York. I ended up doing dock work in New York. Nature, especially the Ocean, gave me security; I knew that it would always provide for me.
High-class women found me intriguing, but they were soon shocked. On a visit to the family of one girlfriend who was majoring in Greek, math, and art, I gathered all the kindling for the fireplace from the surrounding forest—at the summer home of the CEO of Texaco. They scolded me for doing what servants do. I thought I was being helpful. The relationship ended. Thus began a lifetime of struggle against Big Oil.
My habit of surviving off Nature, rather than just loving it, has alienated many people I have met, especially scientists. I think of yields; they think of do-not-touch. My environmental awareness grew from what all primitive hunters do: running. During cross-country workouts in the Midwest, I found the farms repulsive and filthy, but marshes and forests pleasant. So I wanted the land returned to hunting, fishing, and gathering, with farming confined to near-city plots. A 1976 essay on this theme, intended for a top academic institution, ended up as “Agriculture Ends, Art Takes Over.” I desired to turn the U.S. and world society back to pre- Neolithic land use, albeit with high-tech, including satellites. I have struggled to aim Earth Art, video/ film, and Constructivism toward these ends, so far without success.
If Nature is to thrive, human society must change enormously—much more than appears now in geopolitics. How and where?
Born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1950, Peter Fend lives and works in New York. He received his B.A. from Carleton College in 1973. In 1980, he co-founded the Ocean Earth Development Corporation to research,develop, and promote alternative energy sources.
Recent solo exhibitions include To Be Built (2015), Galerie Barbara Weiss, Berlin; Afrika Europa Brücke (2015), Oracle, Berlin; and Rebels Are Reasonable (2014), Essex Street, New York. Group exhibitions in 2015 that featured his work include Globale—Exo-Evolution, ZKM Karlsruhe, Germany; to expose, to show, to demonstrate, to inform, to offer: Artistic Practices around 1990, mumok (MUseum MOderner Kunst), Vienna; 2050: A Brief History of the Future, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts Belgique, Brussels; and Dojima River Biennale 2015, Take Me To The River—currents of the contemporary, Dojima River Forum, Osaka, Japan.