The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía presents a retrospective of the work of Chip Lord (Cleveland, 1944) a pioneer in video creation in the United States and co-founder of the art and architecture collective Ant Farm, created to map the American psyche of the 1940s and 50s without losing sight of the rapid technological changes of the post-war period. The works done by Ant Farm, whose members (co-founder Doug Michels and Curtis Schreier and Hudson Marquez, who joined later) came from the field of architecture, treated the media in a way that differed significantly from other video collectives in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Decidedly interdisciplinary, the group produced works that combined performance art, media language, sculpture and graphic and architectural design and usually exhibited the countercultural ideology of the era with a free-and-easy sense of humour.
The automobile was the central icon of Ant Farm’s projects and one of the most representative visual motifs of Chip Lord’s works. Two- Lane Blacktop (1971) foresaw the end of the road movie genre, but also the end of the iconic image of the lone car speeding across an empty landscape, while Easy Living (1984), made in collaboration with collector Mickey McGowan using miniature cars and plastic human figures, can be seen as a criticism and at the same time, an affectionate fleeting look at the United States leisure class. Motorist (1989) presents one last trip, in more than one sense, in which Lord reveals the pollution inherent in the idealisation of automobiles, the imagination and drivers’ memories using glamorous car advertisements, out of which the director constructs an audiovisual collage with magazine fold-outs from the 1950s and dreamy car competition ads, connecting individual fascination with the collective obsession about cars.
Ultimately, the automobiles cannot be distinguished from the country itself, driven at full speed towards a culture of pure consumerism, and from that point of view, Chip Lord’s work can be seen as a reflection on dreams and myths, truths and lies, on reality and fiction in a world manufactured by the American dream beginning in the 1950s.