Fordlandia: Melanie Smith
August 8 – September 13, 2015
Bajio 231, Colonia Roma, Cuauhtemoc 06760 DF, Mexico
Descriptions of Fordlandia—Henry Ford’s ill-fated urban development and rubber plantation of the same name, built in 1928 in Brazil’s Amazonian rainforest—sound alternately surreal, hilarious, and completely miserable.
Willed into existence by sheer force of industrialist conviction, and funded by US greenbacks, Fordlandia was a disaster to the tune of $20 million dollars. This speculative venture was representative of a man obsessed with imposing his philosophies on his employees, even in their homes. Unsurprising for a man who employed a secret moral police to investigate his employees’ personal habits, he tried to control his Brazilian workforce by forbidding drink, tobacco, and women in Fordlandia. He made the Brazilian workers eat unfamiliar American foods, enforced an American 9-to-5 factory work schedule incompatible with a tropical climate, provided English romantic poetry readings, and built Midwestern-suburban style homes for the Amazonian workers. They even installed front lawns and a golf course in the Amazon!