Karolina Karlic

2019 Hellman Fellow


Assistant Professor, Art
UC Santa Cruz

Project Title: Rubberlands: a transmedia art work which visualizes the ways rubber manufacturing is socially,ecologically, and systemically formed.

Project Description: Funding from the Hellman Fellowship will support the creation and development of, The Romance of Rubber, a film that embodies the moving image portion of a larger body of work entitled Rubberlands.

Rubberlands, is an ongoing photographic survey which maps the ways rubber manufacturing is socially, ecologically, and systemically formed. This is a long-term expansive art project. Following the trajectory of my earlier work which explored the automobile industry in Michigan, Rubberlands proceeds from Midwest cities like Detroit and Akron, Ohio—once the rubber capital of the world—and serve as entry points to networks of globalization. In this work I connect the company archives of Henry Ford, Goodyear, Goodrich, General Tire and Firestone, as a way to trace the evolution of an industry that relies heavily on outsourcing of the Hevea brasiliensis (Amazonian rubber tree). Photographic fieldwork in Brazil images manufacturing plants in Salvador and Itaparica, a Michelin rubber plantation in the Atlantic forest and a fisherman’s village on the coastal rivers of Itubera in Bahia, and the vestiges of Henry Ford’s planned company town along the Tapajos River. By weaving together historical archives and contemporary renderings of environs shaped by production, this film, The Romance of Rubber, moves beyond capturing a static place and time, and instead configures a dynamic space for contemplating the inextricable social and personal bonds surrounding labor and natural resources. This film aims to invite the viewer into a space and environment where historical consciousness is critical to reflecting on our relationship to consumption. Using an intersectional lens, this film reveals threatened landscapes, sites of reforestation, and working factories against the backdrop of their surrounding communities; scenes where living things are transformed into assets and removed from their endemic world to supply the demands of capital.