Chip Lord, Ant Farm Collective
When I graduated from college in 1968 there was revolution in the air. I had a degree in architecture, but nobody in my class wanted to go to work in a corporate architecture firm. Instead, I founded an “alternative architectural practice” with Doug Michels who had graduated a year earlier from Yale. We described what we were doing was “underground architecture” because in San Francisco at that time there were underground radio, underground films, underground newspapers, and it seemed an underground culture was emerging. For the next ten years we worked collaboratively, and the group expanded and contracted through different projects, and into different media. We became conceptual artists, graphic artists, video artists as well as architects during these Ant Farm years.
Between 1973 – 1976, Ant Farm’s most creative period, we designed and built the House of the Century near Houston, Texas; erected Cadillac Ranch from an invited commission in Amarillo, staged Media Burn in San Francisco and restaged the Kennedy Assassination as The Eternal Frame in Dallas, and buried a Citizens Time Capsule at Artpark in upstate New York. The Eternal Frame was a collaboration between Ant Farm and T.R. Uthco, an art team. Each of these projects reflects an artistic practice that was truly collaborative, in the sense that no one person wrote the script – the projects were all conceptualized collaboratively. In making these works I realized that at its best, collaborative work , is greater than the sum of the parts, or participants. It is about producing something that goes well beyond what any of the individual players could achieve.
After Ant Farm split up in 1978, I continued to seek out collaborators for video and installation projects while also producing my own work. Collaborating on a project by project basis limits the term of the collaboration but can be successful in bringing more talent to the project. The most recent collaborative project, Ant Farm Media Van v.08 [Time Capsule] was commissioned by SFMOMA for the exhibition “The Art of Participation” in 2008. For this piece I was joined by Curtis Schreier, who was also a partner in the original Ant Farm, and Bruce Tomb, an architect/artist. We revisited and re-designed the original Ant Farm Media Van as a “post-internal combustion vehicle” that invited museum-goers to participate by plugging in and donating a digital file to an on-going digital time capsule.
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