Ellen Mueller

Survival Skills


While I was in residence at Weir Farm Art Center, I was exploring the idea of survival, from stereotypical wilderness tactics to intellectual survival. I also asked visitors to the art center about their impressions of survival. I pulled imagery from old art history textbooks, personal training manuals, and vintage young adult novels. This work builds on my interests in navigating capitalism, preparedness, absurdity, and high contrast – both visually and conceptually. After collecting all this imagery based on my research and discussions, I used a variety of media, from watercolor spills and color aid paper, to matte medium transfers and china markers, to layered collages conveying new meaning through various juxtapositions.


After an artist talk with the community, it was clear that people wanted a closer look at the small works, which often led viewers to find further connections. Making a zine with this imagery felt like a natural next step, as zines satisfy a deeply human desire for tactility and intimacy. I also like how a zine provides further opportunities for visual juxtaposition as one flips through the pages.

Prints available here.

Modes of Survival from Ellen Mueller on Vimeo.

Performance Score

Survival Skills - Performance

While at the residency, I also engaged the public with an installation of red satin gloves, accompanied by a score (set of instructions). Participants were asked to think of various poses related to the concept of survival, and to teach them to each other for an informal collaborative performance. This score was also be performed at Wedge Projects in Chicago (2019) and as a part of Second Shift Studios’ curatorial projects (2019).