Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Ant Farmers

From time to time when I lived in the Bay Area in the late 60s and early 70s I would visit with the folks at an art/architecture collective called the Ant Farm. This was the heyday of the water bed and the Ant Farmers were big into vinyl. Not for fetish purposes but as a construction material.

The picture that emerges from the Berkeley Art Museum's fascinating retrospective of Ant Farm, the experimental architecture collective founded by Chip Lord and Doug Michels in 1968, is one of relentless flatness. Co-organized by Constance Lewallen, senior curator of exhibitions, and Steve Seid, video curator at the Pacific Film Archive, the show overwhelms as an endless horizon of two-dimensional stuff: All matter of ephemera, expansive wall texts, and publicity material test the audience's readerly skills as much as their visual inclinations. This quite literally superficial gestalt may at first seem at odds with the group's underground ambitions. Ant Farm, after all, appropriated for its collective identity the subterranean metaphor of an insect colony tunneling beneath the earth; and in the group's repeated exchanges with the counterculture's techno-literati--among them Buckminster Fuller and Stewart Brand, the poet bard of Whole Earth Catalog fame--they might appear your prototypical hippie venture, hostile to the advances of Spectacle and insistently digging beneath the surface of things.
Yes. They were big into the technology revolution that was just getting up to speed. Being a technologist myself their work, their workshop, and their philosophy was of intense interest to me. Every one who was "alive" in that period was inspired by Buckminster Fuller's "doing more with less" and taking care of humanity - not with politics (although the politics was mostly left) but with advances in technology and science.

You can read more about the Ant Farm here and here and here.

This reminisce was inspired by a new generation of techno artists interested in manipulating spaces and sustainable environments called N55 which is located in Copenhagen, Denmark. Have a look at the article. There is a picture of a very interesting geodesic dome (naturally) that is a frame used to support several hammocks at various levels.

Of course there is the usual tension between the back to the earth folks and the advanced technology for all men folks in the article about N55. In the 60s/70s I straddled both camps. These days I lean more towards the techno camp.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

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