Rubberlands is a transmedia art project inspired by Henry Ford’s forgotten Brazilian Amazonian jungle city, Fordlândia (1928-1945).
Today, the US outsources most of its industrial and production labor, and that very fact is what led her to investigate Ford’s 1928 attempt in creating a utopic American town in the middle of a jungle, complete with white picket fences, hamburgers, alcohol prohibition, and even a hospital. “His hundreds of thousands of new cars needed millions of tires, which were very expensive to produce when buying raw materials from the established rubber lords. To that end, he established Fordlândia, a tiny piece of America, which was transplanted into the Amazon rain forest for a single purpose: to create the largest rubber plantation on the planet. Though enormously ambitious, the project was ultimately a fantastic failure.” (Grandin, Fordlandia, 2008)
With critical approach to the social history of rubber, Karlic’s project weaves together research from the Henry Ford, Firestone, and Michelin archives, with her still photography and video. Rubberlands examines Henry Ford’s influence on the industrial – agricultural landscape in Brazil with a focus on the reforestation projects at the Michelin rubber plantation – Atlantic Forest. Rather than documenting the ‘once was’ of an industry’s footprint, Rubberlands challenges a traditional narrative by combining creative practice of art, documentary film making, photographic storytelling, archive materials and agricultural redevelopment industries. It pictures jungle life, manual labor, flora and fauna, and the playfulness of childhood. If there is an underlying drama, it is one that confronts mankind with the natural world. Her project reaches across disciplines of socially engaged and environmental art practices, the sciences, and social justice. She quotes Angela Davis from the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, “The struggle to save our flora and fauna, to save the air–this is ground zero of the struggle for social justice.”
Karlic, Polish born and American educated, immigrated to Detroit, Michigan in 1987. She holds an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts, and a BFA from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. She is an Assistant Professor in the Art Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her work has focused on industry, diaspora, environmental concerns and the effects of social upheaval, and has lead her to capture imagery all over the U.S. and various parts of the world, including her native Poland, Ukraine, Sierra Leone, French Polynesia, and most recently Brazil. Karlic has been the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards, including the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, the Cultural Exchange International Fellowship of the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs and Sacatar Foundation, and has been a Light Work Artist in Residence.