Aerosol Arsenal to NY Underwater: environmental works by Chip Lord from Ant Farm to the present
At Microscope Gallery, January 28 2018
A screening of three recent video works by Lord – including a New York Premiere – preceded by a presentation of four historical performances and installations by Ant Farm made in the years 1970-75, and followed by a conversation with the artist and.
The first three works, produced collaboratively in the 1970s by media, art, and architecture group Ant Farm, manifest a dawning awareness of the impact of humans on the environment. Ant Farm, trained as architects and turned on to Marshall McLuhan, were particularly tuned-in to interactions between humans, the built environment, and the surrounding media ecology. A series of “Clean Air Acts” legislated in the 60s, as well as the founding of the EPA in 1970, brought a novel discussion of the effects of air pollution on human health into the mainstream media. Pollution from motor vehicles and aerosol propellants in consumer products was of particular concern, since — unlike abstract, faraway industrial factories — cars, hairspray, and Cheez-Whiz were central to the average American’s daily routine and self-conception. Ant Farm, who were obsessed with the aesthetic of cars, futuristic utopias and dystopias, and American consumerism, used an array of media to gleefully plumb the ambiguities of these iconic and ironic symbols of convenience, freedom, and prosperity.
Chip Lord, one of Ant Farm’s founders and principals, continues to use the techniques of experimental documentary video developed by media pioneers in the late 60s and early 70s. These contemporary documents witness the shift in environmental consciousness and anxieties from air pollution and human health to systemic compounding effects and planetary survival.
Slide show presentation of the following works by Ant Farm:
Gas Station, performance, 1970 — This was part of an Experiments in Art and Technology conference held at USC, Los Angeles. An aggressive performance connecting the phenomenon of smog and the proliferation of gas stations in 1970 Los Angeles.
Clean Air Pod, performance, 1970 — In Living Archive 7: Ant Farm Felicity Scott describes the Clean Air Pod performance this way: “Dressed in lab coats and gas masks, and with the pillow referred to as the Clean Air Pod (or CAP 1500), Ant Farm staged Air Emergency as a savvy piece of ‘media theater’, ‘pollution art’, or ‘life art’ that wryly captured the escalating sense of the destruction and militarization of the environment.”
Aerosol Arsenal, sculptural time capsule, 1975 — When scientists discovered that the fluorocarbons in aerosol cans were destroying the ozone layer of the atmosphere, Ant Farm responded with a time capsule containing aerosol products of the day.
Cadillac Ranch, 1974 — This well-known and on-going public sculpture was created by Ant Farm in Amarillo, Texas as an evolutionary monument to the tail fin as an automotive design element.
Seagram Dark, 2017, 4 minutes 44 seconds
was shot at the public plaza in front of the Seagram Building on Park Avenue, a building considered a “modern masterpiece” when completed in 1958. Workers come and go into the dark monolith, but there’s life on the plaza.
New York Underwater, 2014, 4 minutes
an experimental video made after Hurricane Sandy inundated parts of Brooklyn in 2012. It’s raining in Times Square, the sea is rising, and tourists keep coming.
Miami Beach Elegy, 2017, 30 minutes (New York Premiere)
This is a portrait and a visual poem on 2016’s Miami Beach, as it stands on the edge of rising sea level. Meant to be a memento mori to Miami Beach, before the sea took it.
The group Ant Farm worked the radical fringe of architecture from 1968 – 1978 and in the process migrated to video, performance, public art, graphic design and Art. Chip Lord was the co-founder of Ant Farm with Doug Michels in 1968.
Chip Lord was trained as an architect, and was a founding partner of Ant Farm in 1968. He produced the video art classics Media Burn and The Eternal Frame as well as the public sculpture, Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo Texas with Ant Farm. His work blends documentary and experimental practice and moves between video, photography and installation. An abiding interest in the culture of transportation systems led to The Executive Air Traveler, 1980, a photo series, updated to Airspaces, 2000 – 2011 and To & From LAX, a public video installation in 2010. His interest in cities dates to 1990 and the film about Tokyo, The Aroma of Enchantment. Miami Beach Elegy is part of an on-going series about cities that face rising sea level. Lord’s work is included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, The Tate Modern, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the FRAC Centre, the Pompidou Centre, and Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. He is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Film & Digital Media, U.C. Santa Cruz, and lives in San Francisco.