Publication

  • Burnt Offerings: Ant Farm and the Making of an Image
    Steve Seid
    Author
    Charles "Chip" Lord
    Contributor
    Inventory Press, 2019
  • GRANTEE
    Steve Seid
    GRANT YEAR
    2019

"Media Burn" promotional decal, designed by Curtis Schreier, 1975, San Francisco. Courtesy of Ant Farm.

Originally conceived of as a conceptual architectural practice, Ant Farm evolved into a full-service art collaborative, culminating in such notable works as House of the Century (1971–73), Cadillac Ranch (1974), and The Eternal Frame (1975). Burnt Offerings: Ant Farm and the Making of an Image specifically examines the complex cluster of media theories, cultural references, and art-making strategies informing Ant Farm’s seminal 1975 performance Media Burn in which a customized Cadillac, dubbed the Phantom Dream Car, is driven through a wall of burning television sets. The little-known critical backstory to this influential performance (and videowork) involves a years-long effort to mount this subversive critique of media hegemony while continually reimagining the crux of the performance itself. Burnt Offerings delves into car culture, image proliferation, radical architectural practice, and a close exegesis of Media Burn’s numerous texts, speeches, and artifacts. The book is lushly illustrated with many documents, drawings, and photographs.

Steve Seid is a media curator whose career culminates in a twenty-five year run at the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive (PFA) where he curated over 1,000 programs of video art, film, and new media. Building the PFA's collection of contemporary media works was a priority—during his tenure, Seid acquired several thousand works, preserving many of them. Following the preservation of videotapes from the National Center for Experiments in Television (1967–75), Seid curated Videospace (2000), a gallery exhibition dedicated to the first TV Lab. He also cocurated Ant Farm: 1968–78, a touring museum retrospective. Seid has contributed to or coedited a number of catalogues and books, a highlight being Radical Light: Alternative Film and Video in the San Francisco Bay Area (University of California Press, 2010). Seid continues to write on media related subjects and collaborate on projects, such as the recent re-release of Steve Arnold's gender-defying Luminous Procuress, a 1971 feature-length film starring the Cockettes.

Chip Lord was trained as an architect and was a founding member of the experimental art and architecture collective Ant Farm (1968–78). Dedicated to finding alternatives to mainstream architectural practice, Ant Farm worked at the fringe of architecture, producing inflatable structures, organizing performances and media events, and exploring nomadic design. Ant Farm achieved widespread notoriety in the 1970s for such projects as House of the Century (1972), a ferro-cement house which won a Progressive Architecture Design Citation, and Cadillac Ranch (1974), an iconic work that is both public art and entropic sculpture and crosses disciplinary boundaries. Ant Farm also produced the video art classics Media Burn and The Eternal Frame, both in 1975. Following his involvement with Ant Farm, Lord continues to work in video and produced single channel tapes and installations, often collaborating with other artists. Lord is professor emeritus in film and digital media at the University of California, Santa Cruz.