The Ford Folly


Session Title:

  • Location/Space (Papers)

Presentation Title:

  • The Ford Folly




  • The Ford Folly uses audio, video, motion‑tracking and RFID technologies to create a web of biographical and historical narratives about place. These narratives branch out from a common starting point, the reality of contemporary Dearborn, Michigan, home of Henry Ford and now a post‑industrial city whose past and present stories connect it to locations around the world. When digital technologies are used to communicate historical and cultural narratives across time and space, something important is lost without the presence of actual historical objects. The aura of an object that has persisted through time is not replaced by digital technology, but is supplemented and revealed through digital means. We propose that an object is the locus of a ‘symbol stack,’ a set of connotations that have accumulated over time; storing these symbolic references as metadata, and recalling them through a digitally driven interactive exhibition, reveals the object as a historian in its own right.Too often the philosophical descendents of Situationism forget the purpose of the dérive and other tools as critiques not just of dull daily life, but of the larger power structures that shape the spaces in which that life takes place. Fifty years further on, we have the opportunity to look back into history along the axes of the detritus of Modernism—the objects of mass culture, and how they acquired a life and presence of their own through simple persistence and re‑use through changing contexts. We now live beyond the quintessentially Modernist utopian vision of the future; the 21st century has been shaped out of the fragments and structures left over from the 20th. In creating a remote evocation of a single post‑industrial city we will illuminate the persistences, differences, and connections that connect particular histories across time and space.