Ant Farm, ‘Ant Farm’s Dirty Dishes’, 1971, Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI)

Ant Farm's Dirty Dishes is a freewheeling portapak time capsule that captures the collective spirit of Ant Farm's life and work in California in the early 1970s. The original half-inch open reel tape was also the first work to be indexed in EAI's video collection, and holds the number "001" in the EAI library.

Ant Farm member Chip Lord writes: "It's an anthology of clips from the first year of living with a portapak and it gives a fairly good representation of the way we lived in those days - collectively, loosely, improvisationally. The year was 1970 and Ant Farm, recently relocated from a foray in Texas and expanded to include new members, partners, and frequent visitors, settled into a metal warehouse building on the waterfront in Sausalito, California to pursue the practice of 'underground architecture.' This involved building geodesic domes and inflatable structures, mostly prototypes, which were demonstrated at ecology fairs or campus visits. The Sony portapak AV 3400 video rover had recently been introduced, and Joe Hall went out and bought one. Over the next two years this device became an interactive tool within the dynamics of the group - used to document our work, but also as a sketchbook - a way to creatively interact. The warehouse had a little building attached that housed the bathroom and kitchen and we had a big round table there, made from dismantling a large telephone wire spool. In the center of this table was a lazy susan, and after dinner, we would often mount the video camera on the lazy susan, and let it spin or stop to record revelations (yes, drugs may have been involved) or jokes or the empty stares in between.

We just had the portapak, there was no editing, except in the camera, which meant that we were often recording OVER some wonderful nuggets of humor or wisdom - everything seemed interesting, so why edit? Eventually this changed when we were visited by the Media Access Center group from the Portola Institute in Menlo Park (Allan Rucker, Shelly Surpin, Rich Kletter, Pat Crowley) and were introduced to the idea of editing and the network of video activists and artists, which eventually led to the TVTV project. Ant Farm's Dirty Dishes was edited, I think, at Lanesville TV and then later re-edited on the 1/2 inch system at EAI"

Image rights: Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI)

About Ant Farm

Ant Farm is a media-based collective, working with installation, happenings, and performances as political critique—or in their own words, an “art agency that promotes ideas that have no commercial potential but which we think are important vehicles of cultural introspection.” Formed in 1968 by Chip Lord and Doug Michels, Ant Farm was originally conceived as an alternative practice for architecture, graphic arts, and environmental art. It later expanded to include Curtis Schreier, and sometimes Douglass Hurr and Hudson Marquez, and shifted its focus to re-creating major media events with themselves as primary participants. Ant Farm borrowed frequently from American pop iconography with irony, humor, and spectacle. It disbanded in 1978 after a fire destroyed their shared studio in San Francisco.