ANT Farm is the name of a group of artists and architects based in San Francisco. These artists produced experimental work between 1968 and 1978, by incorporating a variety of different media such as; architecture, performance, happenings, sculpture, installation, and graphic design. Many of the pieces were archived using camera. And the works often focused its attention on the latest technologies only to critisize it make commentary on the effects it had on the American Culture, specifically video and television. ANT Farm was the product of, like many art movements of the past, a response to a current mode of thinking or predicament. America during the 1960s was full of rebellion, embracing the hippie movement, believing in being a non-conformist, and the birth of rock n roll. ANT Form built itself on these ideas and added a creative twist by incorporating video and new media technology. Examples of ANT Farm’s commentary work on the new technology or television can be seen in Cadillac Ranch, Media Burn, and the Eternal Flame.
“Ant Farm as a media collective was part of the communalism of the 1960s, the rock band, and the emphasis on collaboration and collectivity. Ant Farm also stood for the underground, where ants far from our view build colonies and communities.”
(Quote taken from Randall Packer’s Article on ANT Farm)
ANT Farm’s Media Burn, made on July 4, 1975 at San Francisco’s Cow Palace, is a performance, spectacle and media critique. The basic premise of Media Burn is that it is that ANT Farm set up a collision between two of America’s most cultural symbols, the automobile and television. Even in Cadilac Ranch, we can see the focus on automobiles as not only a cultural icon but also as a metaphor for an even bigger commentary on society. Eternal Flame also plays on the idea of video and its impact on us as we watch the videos content as a physical and digital audience. The collision previously mentioned before is not just a simple collision of ideas or sides but a physical collision that led to fire and the destruction of the TV wall and the car.
Reflecting the ever growing dependency on television, especially for political purposes or encouraging passivity, Media Burn prerecorded an “Artist-President” who gave a speech on the effect on mass media on society, “Who can deny that we are a nation addicted to television and the constant flow of media? Haven’t you ever wanted to put your foot through your television?” And as the televisions display this speech, a 1959 El Dorado Cadillac convertible crashes into it. This piece uses the car once again, as a cultural symbol (as seen in Cadilac Ranch) to address the pervasive existence of television in everyday life. They even recorded this artwork using the same media ANT Farm was making a commentary about.
This work caught my attention. Not just for the fire or the weird combination of seeing a wall of televisions falling on top of a new car. But because it manages to utilize two different icons in order to depict the commentary about our society. ANT Farm has manage to embed so much meaning into these respective icons and create a breathtaking performance. The irony of this work is that the “artist-dummies” that are driving the car being guided by the elaborate monitoring television system to their inevitable destination, which is a big wall of television sets.