Fordlandia is an extraordinary visual narrative that ponders Henry Ford’s failed utopia in the tropical Brazilian rainforest and the tensions between colonisation, industry and nature. British-born artist, Melanie Smith lives and works in Mexico City. She is internationally acclaimed for her masterly use of different media, including videos, films, photographs, and paintings to explore the legacies of modernism and post-avant-garde movements as they manifest themselves in Latin America.
Smith’s single-channel video, Fordlandia, has been likened to Werner Herzog’s film, Fitzcarraldo, with industry, power and obsession pitted against the unremitting force of a surrounding tropical jungle. Fordlandia was filmed in a small settlement on the River Tapajos in the Brazilian part of the Amazon, where industry magnate Henry Ford set up a rubber industry in the 1920s. It was here that Ford set about creating an all-American-style city which could produce the largest amount of rubber in the world. Despite shipping in expert technicians, machinery and prefabricated homes, and attempting to urbanise the surrounding jungle, the project failed and twenty years later the city fell into ruin and was eventually subsumed by the rapacious jungle.
Born Poole, England, 1965 Fordlandia (still) 2014 single channel video, colour, sound 29:42 minsCourtesy of the artist and Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich, Switzerland