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apexart :: Transmissão Fordlândia :: Stephanie Elyse Sherman and Agustina Woodgate
apexart - Fordlândia, Brazil
Transmissão Fordlândia
organized by Stephanie Elyse Sherman
and Agustina Woodgate

September 17 - October 14, 2017

Former Ford Factory Building
Fordlândia, Brazil
5-10 pm daily

Opening Reception:
Saturday, September 16, 5-7 pm

Featuring work by:
Véronique Isabelle
Angelo Madson
Gabriel Martinho

An Open Call exhibition.

brochure pdf
press release pdf
release de imprensa pdf
original proposal pdf
images page
Failure interview pdf

September 11-14, 2017
Radio Workshops
These working sessions will be developed with and for a group of invested community members. Facilitated by artists Gabriel Martinho, Angelo Madson, and Véronique Isabelle, participants will share and develop techniques for listening, radio programming, and sound bite creation.
September 16, 6-9 pm
Transmissão Fordlândia Opening Reception
A series of public performances, conversations, and interviews at the former Ford buildings in Fordlândia, Brazil.
September 16, 10am - 10pm and
September 17, 10am - 10pm

Live Broadcast: Transmissão Fordlândia
A live broadcast event, transmitting the opening reception and more. Online and via a local station. Stay tuned for where to listen.
Fordlândia, Brazil, is a small village with a population of approximately 2,000, a stopping point along the Tapajós River, an Amazon tributary, a 10-hour boat ride south from Santarém on the slow boat, or a five-hour ride on the fast one. Fordlândia was founded by Ford Motors in 1928, with the intent to cultivate a steady rubber supply for its rapidly expanding global motorcar empire. The region had long been subject to empirical efforts to gain domination over the rubber harvest, namely by the Dutch and British, and Henry Ford, already in cahoots with Edison and Firestone on rubber agricultural experiments, saw an opportunity and hastily purchased a large plot in Brazil, a ground for implementing new industrial ideologies and a next era of colonial conquest.

From the outset, Ford's project proved disastrous. The crew, with no agricultural knowledge, immediately razed the lands, unwittingly destroying the soil's nutrients. Fordist imports of high wages drew lots of workers to the site, but monocultural agriculture, North American suburban housing and culture, and working hours in the heat of the sun met resistance from nature and indigenous workers alike. Disease spread across populations of trees and tappers, while an Albert Kahn-designed hospital researched tropical ailments and attempted to cure unleashed ailments. In 1933, sparked by a shift from waiters to self-service in the employee cafeteria, a revolt spread, and workers, declaring themselves "workers not waiters," destroyed factory machines, smashed time clocks, and burned what little natural progress there was on the new crop. The workers assembled at the Fordlândia radio station, which had been beaming messages to and from Detroit, and hijacked the channel, rerouting messages to Manaus and throughout the Brazilian state of Pará to spread word of the revolt.

After the destruction Ford declared Fordlândia a "research station," relocated 40 miles downstream, founded the jungle city of Belterra, and started again. With slightly better infrastructure and fewer social controls, Belterra fared better, but the trees still produced no rubber. Following Ford's death in 1947, Ford Motors left Brazil, at a loss of $20 million USD ($247 million today).

Fordlândia has since gone through waves of abandonment, habitation, and activation. The city has of late appeared in global media, and been the subject for books, newspaper articles, and artworks. This media tends to rightly critique the megalomaniacal vision driving Ford's efforts and his notions of progress, and positions nature's revenge at Ford's attempts to mechanize humans and the environment. The abandoned factory architecture and the water and radio towers are still-present ruins and reminders of an industrial past, but, almost a century later, a population with its own evolved forms of social organization, economy, and cultural expression exists.

Bringing an apexart Franchise Exhibition to Fordlândia, we, as exhibition organizers, consider these questions — How to bring listening rather than domination, cultural embrace rather than conquest? How to establish dialogue and interaction with the community without imposing any idea that we, coming in, are "bearers of culture and knowledge"? How to avoid collecting local knowledge and resources without a fair exchange of intelligences? For the past five years, working as part of a collaborative called RADIOEE, we have created site- and time-specific broadcasts to address a multicultural global audience by amplifying local voices. Taking radio as a medium that can be explored as its own art form and as a curatorial platform for connecting different kinds of voices and listeners, RADIOEE creates a temporary channel for social connection and communication, for surfacing the stories of a place and bringing the dynamics embedded in any situation to the surface.

Radio was the first means of mass communication, followed by television, and later the internet. Radio wave diffusion is limited and informed by geographical reach — radio waves reach a given territory, which can be thought of being synonymous with local culture, language, or area. This not only determines a sphere of reach, but also defines the limits of communication between people with similar interests. To think about an online version of radio transmission modifies the perspective of geographical reach: it becomes a global medium where local culture and common interests are no longer the main topics. Instead, it is a conjunction of perspectives — the radio team and its artists are in dialogue with local stations and inhabitants — discovering what can and cannot be said across multiple languages and contexts, using sound, stories, music, and interpretations familiar to some and new to others.

When faced with territories such as the Amazon, internet as a global medium reveals itself also as an illusion of unlimited and invisible reach: if radio requires an analog receiver, internet radio depends on digital receivers, optical fiber, and satellites. For some places in the Amazon, like Fordlândia, cell service is almost non-existent, and internet access is rare, so these communities continue to present different forms of social arrangements when it comes to communication. Radio serves as not only a form of storytelling but as a form of messaging, a political channel for mobilization, dialogue, and activation. Brazil today has the biggest landscape of community radio diffusion in the world, with almost five thousand operating stations, and currently hosts an active discussion and debate about radio spectrum policies. Radio is a place where the public can talk, compounding the distinction between host and participants.

In this light, we have organized Transmissão Fordlândia with the support and collaboration of RADIOEE, local curator Ruli Moretti, and producer Mat Guzzo. The project consists of a collaborative set of actions: 1) workshops between local communities and guest artists Gabriel Martinho, Véronique Isabelle, and Angelo Madson, who in their own practices address these questions and use sound as their main medium for active exchange, 2) a live radio broadcast for two days to share this content, and 3) a site-specific sound exhibition that will feature new site-specific works. Transmissão Fordlândia will include performances, stories, and audio experiments, all taking place in the abandoned Ford Factories. Each project considers how the river, roads, the legacy of rubber, and the history of radio influence today's Fordlândia. It will record a moment in time as the echoes of memories persist, consciously and unconsciously, in the lives of the inhabitants, and in their encounter with the infrastructures that enable or disable social connection across the region. It will review how agricultural accelerations, economics, and communication technologies also mean the loss of forest and the Amazon home, and will provide a frontier of resistance to capitalist production and destruction.

Drawing upon cinematic perspectives and direct sound experience, Gabriel Martinho has researched and explored the dimension of sound in documentaries and audiovisual production. For the past year, he has been creating listening workshops in the north of Brazil (Belém and other surrounding towns). For Transmissão Fordlândia, he considers the experience of listening a collective one. Hosting listening workshops, Martinho develops sounds, voice, and noise as audio landscapes. These workshops will contribute to Sound Territories, a soundscape of Fordlândia's imaginaries that explores its lands, social lives, and machinery.

Artist and anthropologist Véronique Isabelle develops research-based sound projects about landscapes — specifically water, islands, and memories. Through poetic and ethnographic approaches, she stages sound experiences, and her process is guided by her encounters with people. Inspired by circulating tales from the Fordlândia community, Isabelle will collect oral memories and fables from the locals, and will explore their relationship with other Amazonian tales. will culminate in an installation that folds those stories into a new site-specific work.

DJ, sociologist, and community organizer Angelo Madson runs the radio station Idade Mídia in Belém. Part of a broader project interested in "street-level" communication infrastructure as democratic outlet, it began as a series of workshops for community connection and provided a platform for exchange of critical and creative ideas. Madson organizes workshops on community radio and education, bringing theory and practical aspects of radio pre-production and post-production to develop community ownership in content creation. In Fordlândia, Madson will work with the Oficina de Produção e Capacitação de Rádio to create programming content based on sampling, mixing, and sound bites. The sound bite as a construct will form the core of his exploration, which also informs the cultures of Techno Brega music, as well as is the operable unit of political speech and messages. These programs will be part of the Transmissão Fordlândia opening program.

Transmissão Fordlândia is an activation of an outlet, a collection of samples, an amalgam of audio archives, a transmission, and a stimulation of cultural activity inspired by the long history of embodied sound and radio politics in Brazil. For the local Amazonian community, Brazilian visitors, and global listeners alike, this broadcast event and exhibition reframes the stories of Fordlândia, focusing on the present of this place so often known for its past, bringing forward what is already there, and connecting it with near and far peripheries. Radio is a key part of Fordlândia's story of evolutions and revolutions, a story about confrontation and co-learning of locals and outsiders, intermixing cultures, and invisible messages coursing across the understory. Now, through live connection, we anticipate a cacophony of audio, tracing the waves of development along that long river deep in the forest, unfolding the quest for conquest and the cultures that persist and resist, an amplification of the sound systems of this small city in the jungle.

Stephanie Elyse Sherman and Agustina Woodgate © 2017

Artist Agustina Woodgate and curator Stephanie Elyse Sherman are part of a collaborative called RADIOEE which also includes designer Sebastian Bellver and activator Hernan Woodgate. RADIOEE hosts nomadic, multilingual online radio broadcast events on mobility topics. Adapting to sites languages and cultures in situ, RADIOEE opens a channel that cultivates local voices music and sound experiments and connects them with global listeners. For Transmissão Fordlândia, RADIOEE collaborated with producer Mat Guzzo and curator Ruli Moretti. Guzzo is a visual artist producer and transdisciplinary researcher who handled the complex logistics of navigation production and Fordlândia radio re-activation. Moretti is a Belém-based independent curator and cultural manager who worked on the ground with the artists to guide resonance of the exhibition projects within the broader Brazilian/Amazonian context and the Fordlândia community.

apexart's programs are supported in part by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The Buhl Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Greenwich Collection Ltd., William Talbott Hillman Foundation, Affirmation Arts Fund, the Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation, the Fifth Floor Foundation, and with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.
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