artists & participants
"No-one has ever lived in the past. No-one will ever live in the future. The present is the form of all life." –The computer Alpha 60 in Alphaville, Dir. Jean-Luc Godard, 1965.
The Present Is the Form of All Life: The Time Capsules of Ant Farm and LST explores the time capsule projects of seminal media art and architecture group Ant Farm and their contemporary successor LST. Tracing the time capsule's evolution from analog archive to digital database, the exhibition examines the nature of time perception, media obsolescence, and shifting attitudes toward preservation and privacy.
A chronology of materials representing the time capsule works of Ant Farm (1968–78) and LST (2007–today) opens the exhibition, including never-before-seen schematics, drawings, photographs, and videos.
Ant Farm's time capsules deviated from typical examples of the form: they did not preserve stable cultural portraits able to persist through time. Rather, encased within everyday objects—refrigerators and a 1968 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser (Citizens' Time Capsule, 1975)—they had little promise of endurance. Whether destroyed, stolen, lost, or deemed "environmentally hazardous," each work failed, underscoring the humor and countercultural critique at the core of Ant Farm's ethos.
Filling Pioneer Works' main exhibition space is a monumental inflatable designed by LST that recalls Ant Farm's radical architectural environments from the 60s and 70s. The transitory structure cocoons the exhibition's main feature: Ant Farm Media Van v.08 [Time Capsule] (2008–16), a contemporary time capsule by LST that re-envisions Ant Farm's historic 1971 Media Van. Within it, a device called HUQQUH downloads random files from willing participants' smartphones. The compiled data creates a digital time capsule.
Digital archives and time perception are further explored through LST's Time Capsule Triptych (2009). This large-scale work consists of 4,000 digital files collected through the HUQQUH in 2008; video documentation of the (fictional) reemergence of the original Media Van from a missile silo in California; and an architectural rendering of the contemporary Media Van's eventual resting place. Seen together, the media manifest an artistic fiction that attempts to document the past (discovery of the 1971 Media Van), frame the present (digital archive from the contemporary Media Van), and posit the future (eventual site of the contemporary Media Van).
The exhibition will also be accompanied by publication devoted exclusively to Ant Farm and LST's time capsules, and will include essays, discussions, and never-before published ephemera.
The exhibition is supported by an Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Research assistance and support were provided by the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive, Burchfield Penney Art Center, ArtPark, and New York Public Library.
About Ant Farm and LST
Ant Farm was a group of radical architects, designers, and artists active from 1968–1978. Perhaps most well-known for creating desert monolith Cadillac Ranch (1974) and pulling off stunts like Media Burn (1975), the group also created video works, popularized inflatable architecture, and produced participatory performances and a futuristic house in Texas (House of the Century, 1972). The core members—Chip Lord, Doug Michels, and Curtis Schreier—sustained a core interest in American cultural iconography, nomadic living, technology, and big cars over their decade-long collaboration. The group disbanded in 1978, following a studio fire that destroyed much of their archives. Doug Michels, an original member, died in 2003.
LST is a contemporary group including Ant Farm members Chip Lord and Curtis Schreier and artist/architect Bruce Tomb. LST formed around the creation of Ant Farm Media Van v.08 [Time Capsule]. The first iteration of this work was created for The Art of Participation: 1950 to Now, a 2008 exhibition at SFMOMA.