Research Critique: Ant Farm and Media Burn(1975)

Ant Farm

Ant Farm was an avant-garde application of architecture, graphic arts, performance, environmental design practice and other aspects of hyper-futurism, founded in San Francisco in 1968 and ended in 1978 by Chip Lord and Doug Michel.The works made by Ant Farm made a big progress among previous works mentioned in the class is that it made good use of the dissemination of the media, especially the mass media, the icon culture at that time, television, to inform and influence more people than before.

During studying the ideas of Ant Farm, “hippie” is considered one of core concepts for Ant Farm. Browsing the interpretation in Wikipedia, hippie is a member of a counterculture, originally a youth movement that began in the United States during the mid-1960s. And the celebration “the summer of love” brought hippie to the life of teenagers in San Francisco. The beliefs of hippies are joy, nonviolence, to free themselves from societal restrictions, to find new meaning in life, to question authority. And one of the significant movements of them is utopian socialism to form communes to live as far outside of the established system. It seems interesting that Chip Lord said at the conference, “the difference between hippie and Ant Farm in 1960s is new technology.” But I think most importantly is both of them made good use of mass media. In the article The root of the 1960s communal revival’ written by Timothy Miller,

“The rural hippie communes were media attention-grabbers, full of photo opportunities, wild anecdotes, and the weirdest-looking people most Americans had even seen. Press coverage was massive from about 1969 through 1972.”

Nomadic Experiments: Ant Farm Inflatables

It is obvious that Ant Farm is influenced by hippie counterculture greatly when talking about its effort to redefine the way we see, heard and believe in daily life, such as cultural icons and the concept or structure of architecture always presented in works. What’s more, Ant Farm also develops its characteristics by utilizing the ironic humor, focusing on an awareness of the media impact on people’s view and urging the introspection of American kitsch culture.

Besides, Ant Farm is also influenced by the trend of “underground” like underground newspaper. It appeals to “underground architecture” that works against the existence that materials use in works are inflatable or movable and opposition to the Brutalism.

Media Burn

Media Burn was displayed on July 4, 1975 in San Francisco and Ant Farm termed it “ultimate media event.” The main part of this event is a “Phantom Dream Car,” a reconstructed Cadillac car was driven through a wall of burning TV sets. It presented the collision of two American prominent cultural symbols in 1960s: automobile and television. And the drivers inside the car were dressed as astronauts, I suppose that the character of astronauts and the image of car symbolize the futuristic, a powerful vision in the future world that people can be liberated from the control of the cultural production at that time.

Besides, I think of the arrangement introducing an independent speech by artist-president representing as Johnny F. Kennedy on July 4 as a savvy means, because it made good use of the news spot which is also condemned in this event on public, “the monopoly of mass media”, television, which shapes the world we see and think. The gimmick of the date, American Independent day and the character of President, Johnny F. Kennedy, who is first elected on television and also dead in front of his citizens through television easily grabbed the eyes of the public and the mass media. In this speech, it appealed to the public to reflect on the impact of mass media in our daily life in this public performance as well as through the television and encouraged people not to be controlled by the information that the mass media fed and to put their foot through the television screen.

Artist-President and astronauts

It impresses me that just at the beginning period of the population of television, artists started to ponder over the influence of the centralized thought delivered from the mass media, because the aspect it chose or the interpretation it made of every event could greatly shape or distort the picture or the thought of the event in audience’s mind. Back to the previous topic we discussed in the class, the position of artists in the new media field is obvious in Media Burn that they go outside the inherent way of thinking and own a sensitive awareness of our daily life, and most importantly, they take actions to arouse everyone’s awareness.

“It’s a visual manifesto of the early alternative video movement, an emblem of an oppositional and irreverent stance against the political and cultural imperatives promoted by television, and the passivity of TV viewing.”–recorded in the article


Research Critique: Videoplace(1970) & the idea of immersion

The Background of Myron Krueger’s Work

Videoplace is Myron Kruwger’s main work in 1970s. The movements of the participant recorded on video were analyzed and transferred to the silhouette representations of the users in the virtual reality environment. Through the use of the colored silhouettes, participants can see their actions on screen. The silhouette of participants can touch the objects on screen while interacting with each other. What’s more, participants can interact with others in the connected room on screen.

The Device used in Videoplace

It was based on his previous work, Glowflow, Metaplay and Psychic Space, which focus on the quality of interaction. The first work, Glowflow, is a darkened room with tubes of light, sensing the participants’ footsteps. But this work lacks of the dialogue between man and machine, audience cannot be aware of the response from the environment. The second work, Metaplay, empathizes the interaction between participants and the environment. The artist from the other place can draw following the hand movement of the participant in the other room. The third work, Psychic Space, adds the responsive sound and also creates the dialogue between the participant and the computer that the movement of the participant can trigger the difference responses of the computer.

The Discrepancy from Others’ Interactive Works

“Man-machine interaction is usually limited to a seated man poking at a machine with his fingers or perhaps waving a wand over a data tablet. Seven years ago, I was dissatisfied with such a restricted dialogue and embarked on research exploring more interesting ways for men and machines to relate.”—Myron Kruwger

Myron Kruwger

Kruwger’s idea with Videoplace is the creation of virtual reality that surrounds the users, and responds to their movements and actions, without being encumbered by the use of goggles or gloves.

The concept of Myron Krueger’s interactive environment is without wearable devices to interact with objects or other participants on screen. But is it a viable way to immerse participants in the virtual reality compare to the help of head-mounted display or the use of goggles or gloves?

In ‘Virtual Environment’ written by Scott Fisher,

a truly informative picture, in addition to merely being an informational surrogate, would duplicate the physicality of confronting the real scene that is meant to represent.”

I think Kruwger’s works lack of the aspect of 3-dimension space and audio, and the sense of touch. According to the interpretation of the virtual environment in, there are several elements to increase the immersiveness of the experience, continuity of surroundings, conformance of human vision, freedom of movement, physical movement, physical feedback, narrative engagement, and 3D audio. In Myron Krueger’s works, due to the reduction of the aid of the head-mounded display and data gloves, it has difficulties with presenting the sense of space and triggering the physical interaction with other objects or participants.

I think that is the reason why immersing the virtual environment with wearable devices is the mainstream nowadays because people can be more satisfied with the multi-sensory experience compare to Kruwger’s idea that participants are being liberated from a seat or the gloves, but constricted in the 2D experience. But Kruwger attempted to figure out the way to liberate the constriction of the wearable devices still expands the another path of immersive experience.


‘Responsive Environment’:

Myron Krueger Biography: