Media Burn: Ant Farm

Chip Lord (b1944, USA), Doug Michels (1943 – 2003, USA), Curtis Schreier (b1944, USA)

Excerpts from Ant Farm’s classic video art piece examining and satirizing the media, particularly the impact of television.

On July 4, Independence Day, 1975, what a TV newscaster described as 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 El Dorado Biarritz, piloted by two drivers who are guided only by a video monitor between their bucket seats, smashes through the pyramid destroying the TV sets. To view the entire piece, go to

Click to see a larger version of the image

The artists’ collective Ant Farm was established in San Francisco in 1968 by architects Chip Lord and Doug Michels. In addition to their utopian architectural designs, Ant Farm staged actions critiquing the media, politics and art itself.

Media Burn (1975) stages an explosive collision between two of America’s most potent cultural symbols: the car and the television. On 4 July 1975 at San Francisco’s Cow Palace, a reconstructed 1959 El Dorado Cadillac was driven through a wall of burning TV sets. Footage of the event, much of which was shot from a closed-circuit video camera mounted inside a customised tail-fin, is juxtaposed with news coverage by local television stations. Doug Hall plays John F. Kennedy as an Artist-President, delivering a speech about the impact of mass media on American life:

‘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?’

Media Burn explores the boundaries between art, politics, protest and the media. It combines contemporary works with those from the 1970s and 1980s, all sharing a DIY, collage aesthetic that involves manipulating the images and techniques of the mass media. Some of the artists explore the relationship between politics and everyday life in the domestic environment. Others take to the streets, contemplating the effectiveness of protest and direct action in the twenty-first century.

For information on current exhibition at the Tate Modern, London click here

For video interviews with the artists in real player click here

For more from Media Burn go to

1 thought on “Media Burn: Ant Farm

  1. Pingback: Oscar III « LUNCH ENCOUNTER

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