Art Histories Seminar
Mi 24 Jun 2015 | 12:00–13:30

The Image and the “Orient” in Ford’s Hollywood

Saima Akhtar (Art Histories Fellow 2014/15)

ICI Berlin Institute for Cultural Inquiry, Christinenstraße 18-19, 10119 Berlin

Ford Model T advertisement shot against the backdrop of the Giza Pyramids; Ford Times, 1916

This talk examines the commercial reach of a major American corporate power in the first third of the twentieth century. With the Ford Motor Company (FMC) and its social and economic programs at the center of the study, I trace the paths of commercial images and forms of spatial organization that were essential to the workings of Fordism. As a lesser-known aspect of the company’s global dealings, I look at the FMC’s interest in and depiction of the people and regions of the greater Middle East, just on the cusp of the First War. The creation of Ford’s advertising department, from where its in-house publications, newsletters, photographs and films were disseminated, coincided with the mechanization of the assembly line and resulted in the rapid rise and mass circulation of Fordist imagery. These images visualized, made, and remade, global geographies of consumption and production and were as instrumental in selling Ford commodities at home and abroad as they were in associating civility and modernity with the spread of American technology.

Saima Akhtar is an architect and designer whose research focuses on the relationship between the built environment, corporate enterprise, and labor migrations. She received a PhD in Urban Studies from the University of California, Berkeley and holds bachelor’s degrees from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and a master’s degree in the History, Theory, and Criticism of Architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She has published in the International Journal of Islamic Architecture and the Journal of Urban History and is Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices Fellow 2014/15.

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