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]

Doug Michels and Chip Lord initially met in 1968, when Michels gave a guest lecture at Tulane University, where Lord was attending school. The two met again in August 1968 at an architecture workshop directed by Lawrence Halprin in San Francisco, and It was here where the two founded Ant Farm. [1] 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!” [2] The group’s initial goal was to reform education, but with little funding, Michels and Lord relocated to Houston, Texas, where they both became visiting professors at the University of Houston. It was in Houston where the group first began putting on performances, including their “inflatables.” [3] 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.[4] 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.

Projects[edit]

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.[5] In 2004, the group described the house as "a ruin",[6] and in 2006, Dwell architecture magazine stated that the house was "partially submerged in a Texas swamp",[7] but Chip Lord corresponded that it was not, but was "undergoing a renovation supervised by Richard Jost, working with the owner".[8] As of 2009 it was still a private residence, reported as being somewhat overgrown, surrounded by a barbed-wire fence.[9]

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[edit]

Ant Farm began planning Media Burn while in Houston. Michels and Lord were interested in having the event sponsored, and first proposed Media Burn to the Walker Art Center; however, the art center did not want to sponsor the event, nor did any one else that they asked, so Michels and Lord began selling merchandise to support the event, in order to “[use] capitalism to smash capitalism,” as described by Michels. Planning for Media Burn lasted six months, because the duo wanted it to be “more than a spectacle.” [10] It was on July 4, 1975 when Ant Farm performed their “ultimate media event.”[11] This event involved crashing a modified 1959 Cadillac El Dorado Biarritz, known as their “Phantom Dream Car," through a pyramid of televisions in the parking lot of the Cow Palace Stadium in San Francisco.

Prior to the main event of crashing the car through the stacked televisions, Doug Hall, whom was presented as President John F. Kennedy, gave a speech in which he presented the “Phantom Dream Car.” [12] Lord and Michels designed the Phantom Dream Car to appear futuristic, and have an “Apollo element;” meaning, they could only enter the vehicle’s cockpit by crawling in, and their communication would be controlled by radio. Additionally, Lord and Michels would be dressed as astronauts while driving. [13] Doug Hall's speech also addressed what Media Burn believed to be issues with mass media saying, “'What has gone wrong with America is not a random visitation of fate. It is the result of forces that have assumed control of the American system…These forces are: militarism, monopoly, and the mass media…Mass media monopolies control people by their control of information… And who can deny that we are nation addicted to television and the constant flow of media? And not a few of us are frustrated by this addiction. Now I ask you, my fellow Americans: Haven’t you ever wanted to put your foot through your television screen?’”[14] An article written by George McGovern for Rolling Stone Magazine about mass media’s power directly influenced the content of this speech. [15] Footage from the live event is presented in conjunction with news coverage of the event, in which many reporters say that they “don’t get it” and even that they “don’t […] wanna get it.” [16]

“Media Burn” offers critique of the prevalence of television in American culture and the “the passivity of TV viewing” through the collision of two symbols of Americana: the Cadillac and the television. Similar critiques of television’s growing cultural influence were popular among other early video artists. [17] As a group, Ant Farm was concerned with “reality,” and how it is defined by the media because of the trust that the public instills in television. Media Burn directly addresses mass media’s control by limiting their presence in the piece. In the video, no real reporters were not shown conducting interviews in order to create a freer exchange of information, which was commonly employed by Guerrilla Television artists at the time. [18] Doug Michels, himself, said that by “using TV to destroy TV,” they were working within the theme of Guerrilla Television: to “destroy the monopoly of centralized television.” [19]

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”.[20][21] 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]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mellencamp, Patricia. "Ant Farm Redux: Pyrotechnics and Emergence." Journal of Film and Video 57.1/2 (2005): 40-56.
  2. ^ 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. 
  3. ^ Mellencamp, Patricia. "Ant Farm Redux: Pyrotechnics and Emergence." Journal of Film and Video 57.1/2 (2005): 40-56.
  4. ^ Melissa E. Feldman (January 2005). "Unearthing Ant Farm" (PDF). Art in America. pp. 42–45. Archived from the original on 2007-12-30. Retrieved 2010-05-09. 
  5. ^ "House of the Century". Texas Monthly (Brazoria County). June 1992. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ Anderton, Frances (July–August 2006). "Space Odyssey". Dwell (Radical Ideas in Architecture): 167. 
  8. ^ Lord, Chip (October 2006). "Letters". Dwell: 34. 
  9. ^ Shey, Brittanie (July 20, 2009). "Texas Traveler: Angleton's Mysterious House of the Century". Houston Press. 
  10. ^ Lewallen, Constance, Steve Seid, and Chip Lord. Ant Farm, 1968-1978. Berkeley: U of California, 2004. pg 72-73
  11. ^ http://www.eai.org/title.htm?id=1823/
  12. ^ http://mediaburn.org/video/media-burn-by-ant-farm-1975-edit/
  13. ^ Lewallen, Constance, Steve Seid, and Chip Lord. Ant Farm, 1968-1978. Berkeley: U of California, 2004. pg 72-73
  14. ^ http://mediaburn.org/video/media-burn-by-ant-farm-1975-edit/
  15. ^ Mellencamp, Patricia. "Ant Farm Redux: Pyrotechnics and Emergence." Journal of Film and Video 57.1/2 (2005): 40-56.
  16. ^ http://mediaburn.org/video/media-burn-by-ant-farm-1975-edit/
  17. ^ http://www.eai.org/title.htm?id=1823/
  18. ^ Mellencamp, Patricia. "Ant Farm Redux: Pyrotechnics and Emergence." Journal of Film and Video 57.1/2 (2005): 40-56.
  19. ^ Lewallen, Constance, Steve Seid, and Chip Lord. Ant Farm, 1968-1978. Berkeley: U of California, 2004. pg 72-73
  20. ^ "ANT FARM Media Van v.08 (Time Capsule)" (AUDIO WITH IMAGES). San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. November 2008. Retrieved 2010-05-10. 
  21. ^ "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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