Ant Farm

Ant Farm was an innovative countercultural collective working in media, architecture and spectacle from the late 1960s through the 1970s. Their media events, site structures, performances and videotapes merge an irreverent pop humor with cultural and political critique. Images of a Cadillac crashing through a wall of burning TV sets (Media Burn, 1975) or of ten Cadillacs buried, fin-up, in a field off Route 66 in Texas Cadillac Ranch Show, (1974), are emblematic of Ant Farm's provocations towards the mass media and American cultural icons.

Founded in 1968 in San Francisco by Chip Lord and Doug Michels as an alternative architecture, graphic arts, and environmental design practice, Ant Farm expanded to include Curtis Schreier and, at times, Douglas Hurr and Hudson Marquez (later a member of TVTV). Functioning as a self-proclaimed "art agency that promotes ideas that have no commercial potential, but which we think are important vehicles of cultural introspection," Ant Farm was one of the most influential of the early media-based collectives.

Ant Farm's media events and performances, which integrated art into everyday life, were conceptual works that challenged the symbols and ideologies of post-war American culture and mass media. Conceived on a public scale, their projects were distinguished by an ironic humor, an awareness of the media's fascination with spectacle, and a postmodern use of the American kitsch culture of automobiles and television.

Among Ant Farm's strategies was the simulation or re-presentation of major media events, in which they cast themselves as primary participants and then documented the fabricated "cultural happenings" on videotape. Along with the above-mentioned pieces, these events included a notorious collaboration with T.R. Uthco, a re-enactment of the Kennedy assassination that was documented in The Eternal Frame (1975).

With their ironic confluence of American pop iconography, cultural satire and guerrilla art tactics, Ant Farm's works are cogent statements on the pervasiveness of the mass media in contemporary life. Ant Farm disbanded in 1978 when a fire destroyed their studio at Pier 40 in San Francisco.

Ant Farm was formed in 1968 and disbanded in 1978. Ant Farm's work is on permanent display at the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas and the Hard Rock Café in Houston, Texas. Their Citizen's Time Capsule was buried in Lewiston, NY in 1975 and uncovered in 2003. Their work has been shown at the PS1 Contemporary Art Center, NY; Haifa Museum, Israel; Kunsthalle Wien, Austria; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; Musee d'Art Moderne et Contemporain, Strasbourg, France, and Kunsthaus Zurich, Switzerland, among other venues.

A retrospective of Ant Farm's work, entitled Ant Farm 1968-1978, was organized by the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum, and Pacific Film Archives, and opened in January 2004 at the Berkeley Art Museum. The exhibition traveled to the Santa Monica Museum of Art, CA; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia; the University of Houston, TX; Zentrum fur Kunst und Medientechnologie (ZKM), Karlsruhe, Germany; and Yale University School of Architecture Gallery. The group's awards include a Progressive Architecture Citation for Design Excellence.

Chip Lord was born in 1944 and lives in San Francisco, CA. Doug Michels was born in 1943 and died in 2003.