Ant Farm (group)

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This article is about the group of architects. For other uses, see Ant farm (disambiguation)

Ant Farm was an avant-garde architecture, graphic arts, and environmental design practice, founded in San Francisco in 1968 by Chip Lord and Doug Michels.

The group[edit]

The name was given to them by a friend to whom they had described what they were doing as “underground architecture,” taking the name literally she responded, “oh underground architecture is what ants do!” [1] Eventually, Lord and Michels were joined by Hudson Marquez and Curtis Schreier.
The group was a self-described "art agency that promotes ideas that have no commercial potential, but which we think are important vehicles of cultural introspection." In addition to their architecture works, the collective was well known for their counter-cultural performances and media events, such as Media Burn. Their installation, Cadillac Ranch, remains an icon of American popular culture.[2] Ant Farm disbanded in 1978 when a fire destroyed their San Francisco studio. Doug Michels went on to design the unbuilt statue The Spirit of Houston.


Inflatables, 1971[edit]

Ant Farm traveled America with a tour of "architectural performances" during which the group unfurled its anti-architectural Inflatables - inexpensive, portable shelters made of vinyl that provided the stage for lectures and "happenings." Anyone who wanted to make an inflatable could buy Ant Farm's Inflatocookbook.

House of the Century, 1972[edit]

In collaboration with architect Richard Jost, Ant Farm designed and built a Futurist ferro-cement residence. The house is noted for its curvilinear and organic shapes, inspired by the Apollo 11 lunar landing.[3] In 2004, the group described the house as "a ruin",[4] and in 2006, Dwell architecture magazine stated that the house was "partially submerged in a Texas swamp",[5] but Chip Lord corresponded that it was not, but was "undergoing a renovation supervised by Richard Jost, working with the owner".[6] As of 2009 it was still a private residence, reported as being somewhat overgrown, surrounded by a barbed-wire fence.[7]

Cadillac Ranch, 1974[edit]

In Amarillo, Texas, Ant Farm half-buried a row of 10 used and junk Cadillac automobiles dating from 1949 to 1963, nose-first in the ground, at an angle corresponding to that of the Great Pyramid of Giza. The installation is set up to the west of Amarillo near Interstate I-40 on the famous former Route 66.

Media Burn, 1975[8][edit]

In 1975 Ant Farm, dressed as astronauts, drove a space-age Cadillac full speed through a wall of flaming TV sets in the parking lot of the Cow Palace, San Francisco. Media Burn offered a critique of media and technology. Their video of the performance was also styled after news coverage of a space launch, including melodramatic pre-stunt interviews with the artists.

The Eternal Frame, 1975[edit]

A re-enactment of the assassination of John F. Kennedy as seen in the Zapruder film. Done in collaboration with the media art collective, T. R. Uthco (Diane Andrews Hall, Doug Hall, Jody Procter). The Eternal Frame focused on this event as a crucial site of fascination and repression in the American mindset.

Media Van[edit]

As they traveled the United States, Ant Farm drove in the Media Van, a customized Chevy complete with a bubble skylight for videotaping road side scenery.

In 2009, Ant Farm revived Media Van for an exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) titled “The Art of Participation: 1950 to Now”.[9][10] The Media Van had electronic connections that allowed the public to upload images, videos, and songs onto the van's hard-drive. The van was then sealed, like a time-capsule, with a scheduled reopening in 2030.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jose M. Hernandez (Winter 2004). "Antfarm Retrospective". Eyecandy issue 14. University of California, Santa Cruz. Archived from the original on 2009-02-24. Retrieved 2010-05-09. 
  2. ^ Melissa E. Feldman (January 2005). "Unearthing Ant Farm". Art in America. pp. 42–45. Archived from the original on 2007-12-30. Retrieved 2010-05-09. 
  3. ^ "House of the Century". Texas Monthly (Brazoria County). June 1992. 
  4. ^ Lewallen, Constance M.; Seid, Steve; Sorkin, Michael; Maniaque, Caroline; Lord, Chip (2004). Ant Farm 1968-1978. University of California Press. p. 85. ISBN 978-0-520-24030-8. 
  5. ^ Anderton, Frances (July–August 2006). "Space Odyssey". Dwell (Radical Ideas in Architecture): 167. 
  6. ^ Lord, Chip (October 2006). "Letters". Dwell: 34. 
  7. ^ Shey, Brittanie (July 20, 2009). "Texas Traveler: Angleton's Mysterious House of the Century". Houston Press. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "ANT FARM Media Van v.08 (Time Capsule)" (audio with images). San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. November 2008. Retrieved 2010-05-10. 
  10. ^ "Chip Lord , Curtis Schreier, and Bruce Tomb on the Ant Farm Media Van v.08 (Time Capsule)". San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. November 2008. Retrieved 2010-05-10. 

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