Time Travel Drive-by

The time capsule stands idle against the background of the stark white walls.
Photo by Katie Mykleseth

Forty years ago, the Ant Farm Media Van crossed the Western U.S., connected communities and then disappeared. Recently rediscovered and redesigned, the updated Ant Farm Media Van v.08 [Time Capsule] sits in the Ceramics Research Center at ASU, giving people the opportunity to connect with the communities of the past and of the future.

With its dull black paint job and hollowed inside, The Ant Farm Media Van v.08 [Time Capsule] doubles as a time capsule and as interactive art. The sculpture-time machine hybrid is a Chevy Van redesigned by an alternative architecture group called Ant Farm.

The tar-covered van contrasts the bright windows and white walls of the Ceramics Research Center.

Its inside has been stripped of any furniture except for what looks like a neon-green steering wheel. This one familiar aspect of the van cannot navigate the vehicle like it would normally, but it can guide the images of guests who attach their cameras, iPods, smart phones and MP3s to the exhibit’s hard drive.

Steering wheel or no, the console is named the HUQQUH (pronounced “hook-uh”) and has several chords sticking out of it; when these cords attach to the digital devices they import a file to the time capsule’s library.

But here’s the catch — the guest has no control over what file the HUQQUH chooses.

The HUQQUH decides what will transcend time.

The neon-green steering wheel waits patiently to decide which memories will transcend time.
Photo by Katie Mykleseth

On a screen where HUQQUH’s horn should be plays a slideshow of all of the images collected from exhibit visitors. Once the HUQQUH captures the image, the guest receives a receipt from the bottom of the faux steering wheel. This receipt represents the contribution the guest has made to the time capsule van that will be revealed again in 2030.

Gordon Knox, Director of the ASU Art Museum, says ASU is the only college campus where the Media Van will be displayed. “It’s actually a museum piece that goes from museum to museum, but I felt as a university museum deeply involved in how things are evolving and where things are going it made a lot of sense to bring the Media Van to campus,” Knox says.

The origin of the Ant Farm Media Van v.08 [Time Capsule] begins in the early 1970s when it was referred to simply as “The Media Van.” The original artists of Ant Farm — Chip Lord, Doug Michels and Curtis Schreier — drove the Media Van across the Western U.S. and thus created the Truck Stop Network. This project introduced a network by recording and sharing videos of the people they met.

Knox says he wanted the van at ASU because of its history: “I brought this project to ASU because in many ways it is a perfect project for a university context. The Ant Farm group re-explored how to work from campus to campus, this is pre-Internet, to create a larger dialogue that connected all the different campuses.”

Knox says the original Ant Farm group would arrive on a campus or at a diner in the Media Van and pull out some of the first portable video cameras to record conversations. After a couple days the group would pack up, move to another place and play the previous recordings to the next group of people they met. After showing the old recordings, Ant Farm would film new conversations and move on to repeat the process again.

“In many ways it was a precursor to a concept of the open Internet. The idea of emails, and the use of technology to expand a conversation way beyond your immediate presence,” says Knox.

A short time after the Truck Stop Network of the ‘70s started, the van went missing, but it was recently discovered underground at a missile site in Calif.  Lord and Schreier (from the original Ant Farm team) and contemporary artist Bruce Tomb updated the original Media Van project to create what now resides in the Ceramics Research Center.

By hollowing out the van, adding the HUQQUH and installing a TV screen that displays recorded material from the original project, the Media Van became a time capsule.

“We’ll see what people were thinking in France when the show was there, in the Boston area when the show was there, and here from this installation. You can see in this exhibition what the time capsule will look like because they already produced one from the San Francisco exhibition,” Knox says.

The large size of the van makes it seem it would have been impossible for movers to fit the sculpture inside the entryways of the building. Eduardo Rivera, photographer and visitor services employee at ASU’s Ceramics Research Center, says how the artwork made its way into the ASU building: “I remember seeing a group of workers tearing down parts of the windows to get the van in.”

The whole process of removing windows and placing the time capsule into its resting place would seem hectic, but Peter Held, curator of ceramics at ASU’s Ceramics Research Center says workers accomplished the process gracefully.

“It was an ordeal because they had it on pallets and they had to put it on a forklift and got dollies," Held says. "It went smooth but everyone was sort of suspenseful.”

Images from years past line the wall behind the van-turned-time capsule.
Photo by Katie Mykleseth

The dull blackness of the van’s exterior stands out against a wall of photos from San Francisco — album covers, family memories and nude photos.

When referring to the end product of this interactive art, Knox says the Media Van v.08 [Time Capsule] will give the public a look into the lives of individuals who make up different communities across the globe.

“We are all part of this piece," Knox says. "Much the way we are all part of the language we speak and the culture we live in."

 

Contact the writer at kmyklese@asu.edu or via Twitter @KatieMykleseth


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