Media Burn by Ant Farm, 2003 edit

A recent edit (2003) of Ant Farm's classic video art piece examining and satirizing the media, particularly the impact of television. On July 4, Independence Day, 1975, what a TV newscaster described as a "media circus" assembles at San Francisco's Cow Palace Stadium. A pyramid of television sets are stacked, doused with kerosene, and set ablaze. Then a modified 1959 Cadillac El Dorado Biarritz, piloted by two drivers who are guided only by a video monitor between their bucket seats, smashes through the pyramid destroying the TV sets.

Preceding the event are clips from various TV news broadcasts that covered it (many of the TV reporters make the comment that they “didn’t get it”). The tape includes interviews with invited guests, a speech given by Doug Hall as President John F. Kennedy explaining the message of Media Burn, the dramatic unveiling of the Phantom Dream Car, several sequences of the car smashing through the TV sets, and its triumphant return from the end of the Cow Palace parking lot.

00:00Copy video clip URL Tape opens with several short clips from various TV News sources in the studio reporting on the Fourth of July festivities and the Media Burn event.

00:52Copy video clip URL A TV news reporter defines “media event.” “Today some people decided to stage the ultimate media event, and they invited us down.”

01:34Copy video clip URL Footage from Ant Farm’s own crew.  They shoot the setup for the event, and walk around Cow Palace recording the sights and sounds, beginning with the merchandise booth where girls (one is Judith Williams) are selling Media Burn programs, postcards, and t-shirts.  There are interviews (some by Jim Mayer) with attendees and attempted interviews with news crews, who aren’t willing to be interviewed by outside sources. One man provides his opinion on the event: “If you’re going to take a Cadillac, and you’re going to send it through a bunch of TV’s, then I think it’s important that the people get real close, otherwise it’s like watching football…  If you’re not there, it’s not art.”

05:04Copy video clip URL Interviews with the “Artist-Dummies” (Doug Michels and Curtis Schreier) who are going to be driving the Cadillac.  Schreier: “I’m more worried about America’s chances for survival than my own personal chances.” Michels: “If everyone in America would burn just one TV set…”

06:10Copy video clip URL The Phantom Dream Car is unveiled and described in great technical detail by Bill Ding (John Hillding), along with an explanation of what is going to happen at the event. “The Phantom Dream Car will be for sale after the event. Something everyone would like to have in their garage.”

08:13Copy video clip URL Artist-President John F. Kennedy (Doug Hall) arrives with his bodyguards (members of The Residents) to begin the event.  Kennedy gives stirring speech on media consolidation, the transcript of which can be found in the Media Burn program.  Excerpts follow with timecodes listing their starting points.

10:28Copy video clip URL “What has gone wrong with America is not a random visitation of fate.  It is the result of forces that have assumed control of the American system…These forces are: militarism, monopoly, and the mass media…Mass media monopolies control people by their control of information… And who can deny that we are nation addicted to television and the constant flow of media? And not a few of us are frustrated by this addiction. Now I ask you, my fellow Americans: Haven’t you ever wanted to put your foot through your television screen?”

13:14Copy video clip URL “Let me say this finally about mediaburn, the world may never understand what was done here today, but the image created here shall never be forgotten.”

14:03Copy video clip URL The Artist-Dummies emerge from a van and climb on top of the Phantom Dream as the National Anthem is played.

15:40Copy video clip URL The Artist-Dummies board the car and the final

3:00Copy video clip URL countdown begins.  The car is sealed and the TV pyramid is set alight.  This time period is documented from multiple vantage points: inside the vehicle, cameras mounted on the top of it, and various sources on the ground.  The crash is shown several times, ending with iconic, surreal, slow-motion film footage of the crash.

20:00Copy video clip URL The car passes through the pyramid, and the artists emerge unscathed and victorious, and do a victory lap in Kennedy’s vehicle.

20:34Copy video clip URL The scene devolves as people begin to destroy the charred TV’s.  Ant farm provides onscreen statistics on TV viewing in America over the footage of the wreckage.

21:53Copy video clip URL End credits.

 

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