Ada Mușat

From Survival Kits to Post-Apocalyptic Dreams

© gri_gore

Fortunate to have been born in 1987, on the Black Sea shores, under the no-abortion decree of Communist Romania, Bucharest-based Ada Mușat – also known as ADAM – is a non-binary multidisciplinary artist, interested in exploring anything that fuels their creative drive. Although they studied photography at the Bucharest University of Arts, ADAM remains an illustrator at heart. Self-described as a ‘jack of all trades’, they have always maintained an open horizon by embracing a variety of artistic mediums, including comics, street art, photography, tattoo art, installation, performance, and theatre.

Making sure I am well prepared for any situation, challenge, and new experiences has always been crucial to me. But my fascination with survival gear goes beyond just wanting to be prepared; it’s a magnetic pull that is most likely influenced by my ADHD. I feel like my brain is hardwired to seek out the thrill of the unknown, an almost irrational desire for unpredictable situations. For anyone out there who may not have a clear understanding of how the ADHD brain does its thing, well… it essentially handles dopamine in a less-than-smooth way. It’s not about lacking dopamine, it’s more about the brain doing its own quirky dance with it. Imagine it as a conductor leading an orchestra with a slightly weird rhythm – still producing beautiful music, but with its own unique flair. And since this renowned chemical messenger plays boss with many core brain functions, engaging in activities that boost your dopamine levels can basically make you feel more human and less like an alien. Just imagine the satisfaction and engagement that come with searching for items to complete a survival kit. It’s one dopamine kick after another, keeping your momentum going and your brain entertained.

In a world filled with uncertainty, in which the threat of increasing global temperatures casts a scary shadow, a world driven by greed and ignorance, ruled by unchecked capitalism, a system that prioritises profit over people and the planet, and in which the pursuit of growth often disregards sustainability and fairness, our reality shows visible cracks. It more often than not feels like we’re being propelled towards an inevitable collapse. And so I find myself hanging on the edge of a future filled with questions, powerlessly looking down at what seems inescapable, thinking this is the perfect spot for my preoccupation with survival kits to take shape.

However, this passion for survival isn’t just about seeking a rush of dopamine. It’s also a statement of self-sufficiency, a way of saying, “I’m ready for whatever challenges come my way.” While I can’t pinpoint the exact moment this interest took hold, I distinctly remember when it became crystal clear. It was when I put together my very first survival kit, after coming across an article discussing Bucharest’s vulnerability to earthquakes, in the local independent publication, DoR Magazine. That was when it hit me – I was living on shaky grounds: literally.

Bucharest has endured its share of damaging earthquakes throughout history, making it one of Europe’s most earthquake-prone cities. Every year, it experiences numerous small tremors that serve as a reminder of the transience of life. From the ornate Neo-Romanian designs, elegant Art Nouveau facades and beautiful Bauhaus buildings, many of the architectural gems that define the city’s skyline haven’t been retrofitted. Without proper reinforcement, even a moderate earthquake can lead to significant damage, endangering not only the buildings themselves but most importantly the lives of those who inhabit or pass by them.

The earthquake backpack became my new quest, and as I proceeded with solving the puzzle of essentials: bottled water, non-perishable food, bandages, a flashlight, a Swiss knife and a radio – it was clear that it wasn’t just about dopamine rushes anymore. There was a mixture of feelings that swirled inside me. Each item I chose had its own significance and brought with it a specific mental image. There was excitement, sure, but also a touch of anxiety about the possibility of an earthquake. Among these emotions, there was a sense of control, a strange kind of frenzy in gearing up for the unknown, and a readiness to step up if a disaster ever hit.

Venturing through the labyrinth of my quite vivid imagination, I ultimately came to the realisation that even though I might not live to witness the end of the world as we know it, the possibility of reincarnating into a post-apocalyptic realm becomes something I strongly look forward to. My desire to experience a world in ruins doesn’t stem from a morbid fascination with destruction, it’s not a wish for the world to crumble nor a belief in doomsday, but rather a thirst for adventure, an attraction towards the challenges that a life in survival mode presents.

With all this in mind, I would like to present to you my dream of a possible future. Imagine a world reborn – a place where conventional rules dissolve, and the line between reality and what we call ‘fantasy’ fades. In this chaotic realm, an invaluable item emerges – a limited-in-number, backpack-shaped portal to the past, the CATaclysmus, together with its inseparable inhabitant and gatekeeper – the renowned Felis catus. And to add to the adventure, this treasure can’t be owned by just anyone. Just like they say cats choose their human companion, the backpack chooses its partner in crime based on the purity and kindness of their heart. Those deemed worthy are granted access to the portal and are entrusted with guarding the item with their lives.

The cat gatekeeper will aid, almost as a genie in a lamp. Thus the human can ask for anything, from gourmet meals to any useful items they might need on their journey through a dangerous and deserted world, only as long as what they wish for can fit inside the backpack. But just as all wishes come at a cost, so do these. Upon summoning the cat, each request has a specific price. Various rituals and offerings become the currency of exchange. These rituals can take many forms – from a dance to completion of physical challenges or even quests to fetch valuable items. The cat will carefully watch that the challenge is completed successfully and only then will give the human their requested item. And so, in this emerging world, humans and cats continue to coexist, united by destiny, and carrying the potential to rebuild the world.

As we buckle up for an unpredictable tomorrow, the CATaclysmus can symbolise our desire for preparedness and collaboration. In the face of challenges, it’s merely a reminder that we’re built to adapt, survive, and thrive.

Hand-drawn illustration by the author, 2023, pen and colored pencil on paper © Ada Mușat