Magazine article Artforum International

Ant Farm and LST: Pioneer Works

Magazine article Artforum International

Ant Farm and LST: Pioneer Works

Article excerpt

Ant Farm and LST

PIONEER WORKS

One way to think of Ant Farm, the subject of a recent exhibition at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn, is as the art-world equivalent of an underground music act. They were founded in San Francisco in 1968, against the backdrop of psychedelic counterculture. Despite their impressive back catalogue, they are remembered mainly for two smash hits--Cadillac Ranch, 1974, and Media Burn, 1975. And like so many bands, they have recently reunited, with a slightly different lineup. Back in the day, the group had three core members--Chip Lord, Doug Michels, and Curtis Schreier. In 2003, Michels, who had served as Ant Farm's unofficial spokesman, died tragically while hiking in Australia, and the group reformed as LST in 2007, assuming an acronym that marks the involvement of Lord and Schreier, as well as that of the younger artist and architect Bruce Tomb.

Ant Farm made architecture, performances, and videos in an experimental idiom that variously evoked Buckminster Fuller, Archigram, and Stewart Brand's Whole Earth Catalog--which once used one of the group's inflatables as a production office. A unifying theme was futurology, which they approached in a spirit of allegorical critique. The Pioneer Works show included fascinating documentary material from this period, drawn from the group's obsessively kept archive, and emphasized one of the least-known aspects of their oeuvre: a series of time capsules. Among the earliest of these was Time Capsule 19721984, a refrigerator containing "items unique to the early seventies," including a selection of magazines, marijuana, and "UN-natural foods." Aerosol Arsenal, 1975, reflected then-new revelations about the depletion of the ozone layer. Citizens Time Capsule, from the same year, was a 1968 Oldsmobile filled with donated items--today we would call them crowdsourced--and buried at Artpark in Lewiston, New York.

Ant Farm stipulated the dates on which their time capsules were to be unsealed, but following the dissolution of the group in 1978, these plans went awry. Time Capsule 1972-1984 was meant to be opened in the portentous year of 1984, but the "big gooey blob of consumer crap" contained within (to quote Michels) did not see the light of day until 2000. Citizens Time Capsule, intended to be unearthed in 2000, still lies underground. This errant temporality is well captured at Pioneer Works by a wall-mounted timeline devised by Liz Flyntz, who curated the exhibition with Gabriel Florenz. …

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