Ant Farm, an extraordinary collective
Ant Farm is a group of radical practitioners, whose forte is in architecture, graphic arts and environment design founded by two architects, Chip Lord and Doug Michels, in San Francisco in 1968. Although they had dissolved in 1978, their works still continue to impact, teach and continue to inspire many today. The group that once saw themselves as underground architects/ artists, hence their collective name as Ant Farm, to be part of the counterculture, goes beyond social norms and expectations.
We wanted to be an architecture group that was more like a rock band. We were telling Sharon [a friend] that we would be doing underground architecture, like underground newspapers and underground movies, and she said, ‘Oh, you mean like an Ant Farm?’ and that’s all it took. It was very Ant Farm. The founding of the name was indicative of how Ant Farm worked: the right idea comes, everybody acknowledges it is the right idea and instantly adopts it.— Doug Michels
Described by Gene Youngblood as “an autonomous reality community”, Ant Farm was going against the current, “working against the generation of (their) parents”.
The group were well-known for their inflatable architecture designs, though some did not go pass the conceptual stage. The Dream Cloud, one of their established projects, aimed at “creating temporary environment at the beach” where they explored the boundaries that architecture can go beyond the “physical multi-media environment”, as Chip Lord said in an interview with Randall Packer.
The Eternal Frame, Reenactment of the Assassination, otherwise known as “based on a true story”
During the 1968, where the assassination of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy shocked the world, the Ant Farm was of no exception. The revolution in the air drive the group to expand beyond just fictional narrative moving images, but incorporated a remarkable event in history that impacted the US, the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.
The filming process involved the live performance and re-enactment of the actual happening of the assassination at Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas seen in the famous Zapruder film.
“The intent of this work was to examine and demystify the notion of the presidency, particularly Kennedy, as image archetype….”
— Doug Hall, 1984
The Eternal Frame pushes the boundary of the tense topic of the assassination through the re-enactment. Many might have heard about the event on the news or through the word of mouth, but the making of The Eternal Frame puts into perspective and into people’s minds the “true” happenings of the actual assassination.
“As photographers recorded images of places, objects, and people unmediated (it was thought) by the artist’s style, scholars believed that they could write history, in Leopold von Ranke’s essential phrase, “as it really was”.
-Rowman & Littlefiled, 1998
The Eternal Frame might just have merged history and film-making, documenting history through the lens of a camera, impacting people emotionally with the scenes that might have taken place in the actual setting of the assassination at Dealey Plaza.
This historical moment is captured in a much different way, bringing to light the digital representation and interpretation in the case the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. The gory scenes of the blood filled gun shot and the collapse of Robert F. Kennedy can be put into perspective, despite its accurracy.
Putting my shoes in a regular patron of moving images much like The Eternal Frame, the “based on a true story” label moves away from the fictional narratives in the market, breaking boundaries will change my perspective of the film. It hints at the actual happening of the event in the past, bringing more emotions and more impacts, instilling the eternal frames captured through the lens of the camera into our minds.
Head to “Ant Farm”for a creepy-crawly good time
Excellent. Yes, the eternal frame of the Zapruder film lives on in our collective memory, and as you point out, it was the intent of the artists in Ant Farm and T.R. Uthco to examine the nature of the mediated image. You showed very impressive recollection from the interview with Chip Lord, but it would be helpful to reference the specific quotations, such as Gene Youngblood’s comment about the autonomous reality community. That said, I am very impressed with this very well written essay.