“Fordlândia 9” is JM Ramírez – Suassi’s first photographic book based on a true story although studded by metaphorical and fictional characteristics. Indeed, Fordlândia is real, as many could acknowledge, and it is now a district in the city of Aveiro, in the Brazilian state of Pará. Established in 1928 by American industrialist Henry Ford, in the Amazon Forest and along the river Tapajós, it was built as a prefabricated industrial town for the cultivation and manufacturing of natural rubber for the car wheels of the company. Ford had negotiated a deal with the Brazilian government and the town was designed as an American community in Brazil, where the workforce made up by men only, was constricted to live in American-style houses and eat unfamiliar food, together with other injustices that they were subjected to in the frame of a corporate colonialism attempt of “civilisation”. Fordlândia is known as a symbol of the American way of life failure, a fantasy of the Western white male management and capitalists ventures. Fordlândia was abandoned by the Ford Motor Company in 1934, after local workers several attempts to revolt against the company and difficulties connected to the rocky and sandy soil hostile to a mechanised type of industry, and the attack of a fungus that lessened the rubber tree cultivated there.
What remains now, is a ghost town inhabited by few reminiscent people, objectively depicted by Ramírez – Suassi. Preachers, beggars, soldiers, globetrotters, monks, prostitutes, aborigines, minor politicians: these are namely the people still living in what is left of Ford’s utopia. As characters of a mythological story, they trigger meanings and metaphors, especially when linked to objects and places of action. What external eyes perceive are two towns: one erected above the Tapajós river, and the other reflected, upside down, taking the shape of infinite analogies. The reality of things mingles with the poetic language resulting from Ramírez – Suassi analytical but delicate eye. Indeed, the documentary line in which the images inscribe themselves is blurry loses sharpness and sombrely activates ironies that not only characterise Fordlândia’s community but also each a universal scope.
Fordlândia is a “heterotopia”, in Foucalt’s term, a world within worlds, mirroring and yet upsetting what is outside. Absolutely real and unreal, virtual and realistic. Contradictory, transforming and intense, it is indeed a place dictated by the failure of capitalism and the lack of any social imagination, intended as a force of emancipation working across nationalities to produce locality as a spatial fact and sensibility (Appadurai 1996). Fordlândia is a mythological geography, an idea more than a place, a no man’s land stuck in a non-existing temporality between past and future. Consequently, what Ramírez – Suassi mediates in the book is not a mere documentation of what is left, but a fragmented archive that openly draws new meanings while detaching from all the stories that have already been produced and reproduced.
The photo book presents a fragmented structure of nine sections (from here comes the title). Nine as the last number in the series of figures, the end and new beginning symbolised by death and life, here embedded in the ruthless mechanism of necrocapitalism, which implies that the financial growth and economic accumulation are inseparable from global reproduction of death and ruin of a noppressed counterpart. This rapid process of capitalisation ultimately results is that ruin is aesthetic utopia for progress, and this is Ramírez – Suassi’s take on the real fantasy of Fordlândia.
JM Ramirez-Suassi (1970) was born in Mallorca (Spain), and now lives and works in Madrid. His work occupies an ambiguous position somewhere between portraiture and social landscape, involving multiple visits to the same locations to observe the change year after year.