What does a feminist artist think of a car factory, a Museum dedicated to cars, and a village dedicated to….one (white) man’s interests in a controversial point in USA history (early 20th century)?…
For someone who loves and thrives on A R T –
that is creative expressions made to challenge, provoke or invoke ideas around life, beauty, social justice—and even more specifically for me, around womanhood and the body. What could I see in a car factory—robotic, calculated, linear, patrilineal
I love complexities…
which provoke diverging but not mutually exclusive perspectives…
Super quick trip to Detroit with my teenage son last weekend—he and his buddy made the entertainment plans, visiting the Ford Factory, Henry Ford Museum and Ford Village.
I have a fondness for nostalgia;
even with the imbedded complications—cars, in middle class contemporary American life, elicit familial memory–while also presenting issues around privilege and environment.
Personally: my mom’s 1980’s red Volvo station wagon driving me around the flat Midwestern streets as a kid. She called it “Bessie”; when it had troubles, she’d rub the dashboard, whispering “come on Bessie, you can do it!”.
My first car—a 1991 blue Hyundai Elantra–driving it around the coast of Oregon with my best friend, with a boom box tape player, because the stereo didn’t work.
Concurrently with these warm memories are my privilege to have cars, the inequalities and injustices around me in these environments/communities during these times…and the invisible history: whose hands played a role in crafting these cars? What were their lives like?
My son has always loved cars and I see
the art of
[thanks to Rose Simpson’s Maria, left) …. Simpson (Santa Clara Pueblo, b. 1983) restored a 1985 El Camino in honor of artist Maria Martinez. Maria, Simpson says, represents how in the “Lowrider Capital” of Española, New Mexico,
“. . . cars build identity and create empowerment in disenfranchised peoples.”]
Back to FORD….
Our first stop was the Ford Factory; welcomed by a friendly man who “started making Fords 30 years ago” when he was 19, we first sat in a movie theatre and watched the
of how FORD cars began…
I had no idea what an innovator Henry Ford was!! Tinkering in his garage, creating the Model T, studying other companies’ production lines, figuring out how to mass produce cars, employing 10,000 men within the first years!— (Right: a Ford assembly line, 1913)
The film skipped over how all of this actually happened—
how did he make ends meet?
Who helped in his various stages?
Why were there only white men initially employed?
[The film did mention the women coming in to work during World War II but what about the migration of African Americans to the Detroit area during mid 20th century to escape Jim Crow Laws? Were they employed by FORD then? (Detroit’s currently population is 83% African American…)
There is an online exhibit around African American workers at Ford!
Why not include this info it in the film?
[As the company sprawled across the area—
an acknowledgement for the Native lands it is built upon
…unless I missed it…I cannot find one online either…would be appropriate somewhere…]
Entering the factory—visitors are above a truck production
(expensive trucks to be sure… The historical film boasted that its early workers could afford to buy the cars they built…can they still?)
and see a portion of it’s production.
No cameras/photographs allowed!
(Photo at left from thehenryford.org)
The guide ensured us
“they work 4 day weeks—these workers are happy!”
OK haha why was that necessary to mention?….
The workers seemed content, and exuded a diversity of gender, race, age and self. Colorful garb, snacks abound, and swift working on each of the truck stations as the floor moved, each did their part.
What a funny thing—to have paid to watch folks do their job!
It was at inciteful to see how such a tremendous mechanical configuration can create these vehicles we use to go from here to there.
I thought it might be sterile or Terminator reminiscent[spent way too much time trying to find an image from the original Terminator factory scene so the above is from Terminator Salvation]
—mindless and overly uncreative—heavy and overly masculine–
the factory itself – straight edges, hefty metal, loud unhuman moving parts—was, in itself, with the many real human bodies working–
as Dada presented so well—
[left: Hannah Höch, Cut with the Kitchen Knife Dada Through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch of Germany, 1919–1920, collage, mixed media, (Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen, Berlin).
right: God (1917) by The Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven and Morton Livingston Schamberg. The readymade sculpture God epitomizes the spirit and avant-garde strategies of New York Dada and was made in the same year as Duchamp’s famous Fountain.]
[What is Dada? https://magazine.artland.com/what-is-dadaism/]
….and both Dada and the factory are gender obscure.
Who knows if the workers are happy—what does that even mean, really? Is anyone really “happy” all the time?…but they continue to build. Witnessing that upon the many challenges and injustices in society today—is
at its simplest
[Note; I could have gone down a capitalism rabbit hole here….but I opted not to….]
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Next I’ll venture into the Ford Museum….
What is this series about? Check out my introduction here.
1 thought on “Medusa’s Ways of Seeing: FORD Part I: The Factory”
Thanks for your blog, nice to read. Do not stop.
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