At the beginning of the 20th century, the commission led by Marshall Cândido Rondon travelled through the western Amazon basin in northwest Brazil. The expedition, whose mission was to set up telegraph posts and lines in the Amazon rainforest, mapped the region and made contact with isolated indigenous groups. As part of this project, scientific and ethnographic documents were produced, including photographs that are now part of national and foreign archives. Through its engineering, appropriation and cartography operations, the commission produced a number of framing methods: not only images but also an imaginary of the “distant” Brazilian west. It also set the rules for a game, designating who did the recording, who was to be registered or caught on camera, and how.
In the following century, the assimilation of this territory would occur through a logic of relentless framing, far beyond the first photographs and the Cartesianism of telegraph lines. Attempts were made to frame the reality of the forest according to the ideals of progress, reproducing Western power relations as much as its extractive forms of production. The region is part of the “Arc of Deforestation”, the focal point of environmental destruction, almost entirely depleted of natural resources. The layout of the old telegraph line corresponds today to a road where meat and soy processing factories abound. But it is not solely large-scale industry that bleeds the rainforest dry. It is also the very small habits around it: the outdated gender inscriptions, the attempts to reframe an unstable and dynamic landscape as a conspicuously familiar image. After all, a place is truly depleted when its memory remains distant while its future is a projection in which the map coincides precisely with just another territory to be conquered.