Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Ant-Society presents: Media Burn (1975)

A video art piece examining the media, particularly Television news.
On July 4, Independence Day, 1975, a "media circus" assembles at San Francisco's Cow Palace Stadium. A pyramid of television sets are stacked, doused with kerosene, and set ablaze. Then a modified 1959 Cadillac, piloted by two drivers who are guided only by a video monitor between their bucket seats, smashes through the pyramid destroying the TV sets.
Preceding the event are actual clips from various TV news broadcasts that covered it (most of the TV reporters make the comment that they "didnt get it"; coverage of the "media circus" at Cow Palace; and a speech given by Doug Hall as the late President John F. Kennedy, which explains the message of Media Burn.

Ant Farm was an avant-garde architecture, graphic arts, and environmental design practice, that was founded in San Francisco in 1968 by Chip Lord and Doug Michels. The name was given to them by a friend to whom they had described what they were doing as “underground architecture,” taking the name literally she responded, “oh underground architecture is what ants do!” Eventually, Lord and Michels were joined by Hudson Marquez and Curtis Schreier.
The group was a self-described "art agency that promotes ideas that have no commercial potential, but which we think are important vehicles of cultural introspection." In addition to their architecture works, the collective was well-known for their counter-cultural performances and media events, such as Media Burn. Their installation, Cadillac Ranch, remains an icon of American popular culture.
In 1975 Ant Farm, dressed as astronauts, drove a space-age Cadillac full speed through a wall of flaming TV sets in the parking lot of the Cow Palace, San Francisco. Media Burn offered a critique of media and technology. Their video of the performance was also styled after news coverage of a space launch, including melodramatic pre-stunt interviews with the artists.
Ant Farm disbanded in 1978 when a fire destroyed their San Francisco studio.

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