Figuring out new ways to use our old stuff is a kind of ingenuity Clevelanders get, deep in our souls. We garbage pick. We shop thrift. We rig stuff up.
Not to short change cutting edge technology. Cleveland has that, and so did Ingenuity, 2011. How could you not love Kasumi’s mind blowing video, projected on the white gloss of a glazed tile subway platform? The Guggenheim Award-winning artist-and Cleveland-Institute-of Art-prof’s use of video is a psychedelic exploration of the medium as raw paint. It’s also cultural documentary, twisted with humor, a disturbingly fun look at where we’ve been and what we’re becoming.
Her collages combine video sources, from her own original material to public domain footage, and re-mix them. We’re accustomed to the rhythmic, satiric, irresistible effects made possible in sound by hip hop artists. Kasumi does that with video. Can we pause for a moment, just to marvel at the bandwidth?
Remarkable as the tech installations may have been, the festival itself has re-invented the forgotten basement of a half-mile long bridge. Ingenuity gives big, new life to an obsolete structure in a city plagued by thousands of “obsolete” homes. Maybe we should consider those houses a resource? This kind of ingenuity speaks to us on a completely different level.
What other city holds an art and music festival along a half mile span that soars more than 100 feet above a river valley, while thousands of cars a day still roll overhead? Is there any cooler festival venue in the United States? Drip some of that mojo on our abandoned factories, would you please?
Beyond the venue, re-invention –or, as the developers would say, “adaptive re-use” –made its way into the festival’s programming this year in a big way.
Consider Chair and Tell, an exhibit of seating put together by artists using supplies from industrial resale shop, HGR.
For the unfamiliar, HGR sells old machines, shop fixtures, and other used supplies from Cleveland’s manufacturing plants. Sometimes the equipment is just old. Sometimes the company that once owned it went out of business. You want to buy an old fork lift? This is the place. You want a metal lathe, or an arbor press, or a drill bit to bore big holes in concrete? Come browse the aisles.
For Chair and Tell, artists including Kevin Busta, Dana DePew, Stephen Yusko, and Grant Smrekar took parts from old industrial equipment, cut, welded, and re-arranged it into chairs. DePew made one out of rollers from an old conveyer system. Busta’s used drive shafts with universal joints as legs. Yusko cut up, re-arranged, and re-welded a pallet jack.
On the other side of the bridge, Zygote Press brought a new kind of fun to the medieval technology that is relief printing—by adding a rocking horse. The
printing plates were carved plywood. They’d ink it up with a hand roller, lay over it a sheet of paper and some felt blankets, then lay it all on the floor beneath the rocking horse. Then a kid would climb on board and rock on the horsey’s one, wide rocking panel. A few times back and forth, and they had rocked out a woodcut print.
Loads of local, original bands kept the place kicking. Even Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. the place was full of people and energy.
Ingenuity’s leadership has gone through some re-invention this year: With founder James Levin no longer at the helm, the festival is at a critical point in its evolution. For organizations run by their founders, the transition to a new director is always a tough time. And whether Ingenuity will continue to thrive remains to be seen. But this festival–including the bridge as its venue–deserves to outlive the tenure of the person who had the idea.
If this year’s event was any indication, executive director Paula Grooms and director of programming James Krouse have it off to a good start.