Art as a Social Commentary

Ant Farm Artists: Chip Lord, Doug Michels, Curtis Schrier, Uncle Buddie

Based as an architecture and design group by Doug Michels and Chip Lord, in 1968, it looks into the conceptual activity of the late 60s/70s. It breaks through the walls of traditional architecture into the new media. Ant Farm involves themselves in the youth’s culture embrace of communal living, liberation and utopian ideals, breaking free from the ethos of DIY. The group combined architecture, performance, recent news, sculpture, installation, and technology, to document its activities on camera in the early days of video art; embracing the latest technologies to comment on American culture and mass media.

“Ant Farm worked against a backdrop of tremendous cultural ferment, especially in San Francisco ….. was followed by passionate antiwar demonstrations.”

One of the public installation performance Ant Farm did was “Media Burn”, also known as the “ultimate media event.” In this piece, two “dummies” dressed as astronauts ‘drove’ the Phantom dream car at maximum speed into a wall of flaming television sets. It acted as a parodic media critique through the use of two cultural icons: the automobile and television. Ant Farm addressed the omnipresence of television in everyday life. The video is directed after the news coverage of a space launch, including an inspirational speech by a John F Kennedy impersonator, since it was performed on the 4th of July. “Media Burn” became a visual manifesto of an emblem against the political and cultural law.

In reference to Randall Packer’s interview with Chip Lord, Lord mentioned the details in the performance of “Media Burn” had different components that made it more real. Such as, logos and souvenir booklets designed for this piece, turning something fiction to non-fiction. This inspires young artists to look beyond what we can grasp and explore other fields. Inspired by the socio-cultural  happenings, Ant Farm produced and bend art works into social commentary, together. This shows the value of DIWO and what it could create and achieve compared to a DIY project.

Author: Daphne Ngatimin

everyone's got an act.

One thought on “Art as a Social Commentary”

  1. Very good commentary on the way that Media Burn was staged to create its own media event as a critique of the media. Glad that you were able to draw from the interview with Chip Lord, who did in fact describe the elaborate means they created to produce the Ant Farm depiction of the media spectacle. I am curious about your closing statement. Yes, this was collaborative (doing with others), but I would be helpful to understand better how the collaborative process manifested in the creation of Media Burn. It might have been a little stronger to have ended with how Ant Farm produced their work as social and cultural commentary, which is exactly the point.

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