Dreamscapes Galore: Ingenuity Fest 2019
“Ingenuity, born as Cleveland’s Festival of Art and Technology, has certainly been through some bleak times.” . . . That’s how CAN’s Michael Gill began a review of the re-energized Festival one year ago. And here we are a year later, with another wildly successful festival under their belts (judging by the amount of people I saw posting photos on various social media platforms), the folks at Ingenuity have done it again.
For me, the year under the Detroit-Superior Bridge in 2011 was my favorite, largely due to the location, but back then the festival itself seemed more focused on live music and tech thingies. After all, Ingenuity was originally conceived back in 2004 with a focus on the intersection between technology and the arts. Since 2016 Ingenuity has been housed in the sprawling Hamilton Collaborative, and has shifted their emphasis from technology to much more analog concerns.
Leaving behind the technology angle to some extent has largely worked for Ingenuity – instead I see them focusing on maker culture, local art, and immersive visitor experiences – and this is certainly a good move. In addition to following the national trend toward makers, their new focus reflects the cultural landscape of Cleveland far more than those early fests.
This years theme, “Dreamscapes”, was apt, as walking through the dizzying industrial space does feel nearly dreamlike. Dark hallways and odd staircases, one could easily become lost in the maze of buildings, as each space opens up to start a new scene in the dream. There was an abundance of artsy beds: submarine beds, race car beds, etc. which were perhaps the closest interpretation of the theme – whereas elsewhere the dreamscape just “is” – for example, getting the chance to climb on a gigantic full-scale boat that actually rocks, with “rain” falling around it. (Having attended the festival with my friend’s young one, I can attest to this being her favorite part).
For me, one of the stand-out components of this overwhelming event was “Himikoland” – the new, permanent location for Memorabilia Productions, the brain-child of Haley Morris.
Known for her over-the-top Memphis style, Morris makes art, murals, products, and creates dances/experiences. Using a variety of crafts, resources, and tools, she is responsible for some of the most artistic events in town. Her transformations of spaces like Mahall’s is well-known, as are her amazing Memphis-style hand-made items.
Himikoland in the Hamilton Collaborative is the Studio Store & Showroom for the objects she makes and finds (think clothing, art, jewelry, furniture, props, notebooks, and gifts), but also serves as a permanent display of the kind of space-transformations she is capable of – as well as being available to rent for live performances (on her amazing custom built-in stage), photo shoots, music videos, dance parties, or for any of your creative needs. In this way, Himikoland is really a microcosm of the Ingenuity Experience – but the most exciting part is that it’s not just temporary, she looks forward to being open two days a week, or by appointment. Visit memorabiliaproductions.com to learn more.
Other highlights included a small photography exhibition emphasizing fashion (a part of Cleveland Photo Fest), that featured work by legendary rock photographer Anastasia Pantsios – alongside some of the period fashion she wore at the time she took the iconic photos.
Also of note were the stunning editorial photos by Barbara Merritt, owner of 818 Studios in Tremont.
I didn’t get a chance to see any of the films that were part of the event, but the Ingenuity “Theater” did show a program of local and international shorts, music videos, and animation – that I was sorry to miss.
Dealer/gallerists Maria Neil Project (Adam Tully and John Farina) again showed a somewhat traditional gallery-style show, titled “Lucid Dreamscapes” in the large second-floor space they’ve used before. This time showing a “new grouping of area artists that will transport you, whether your journey be bright and cheery, a little devilish, or just plain chaotic.” Featuring work by Dina Hoeynck, Robin Latkovich, Bryon Miller, Angela Oster, Kristin Rogers, Daiv Whaley, and Paul Sydorenko, one of the stand-outs of the show was the pokey little alcove they turned over to artist Dana Depew.
Included in the alcove are two new hanging lamps – titled “Romulus and Remus,” they were fashioned from reclaimed fiberglass water tanks, faux fur, and incandescent lighting. And hanging on the walls were some of his newer “paintings” – traditional pieces of embroidery, macrame, and quilting are literally painted over, and transformed into painting-like 2-D wall hangings. This is what Depew does best – taking objects away from their original context and use, and transforming them into something entirely new.
Liz Maugans’ large-scale mural-like creations looked particularly beautiful in this vacuous space – hung like exclamation points on either side of the large gallery entrances.
But the biggest surprise was the stunning new work by Eric Rippert, who is constantly pushing himself into new styles and techniques, as evidenced here by the series of dark canvases hanging along the west wall.
These gorgeously lush works titled Forest Versions, were recently created by Rippert using spray paint, shellac, and what appears to be leaves and other foliage as his textural subject matter. The ghostly forms dance across the surface of the composition, like smoky ghosts of autumns past. They also resemble Photo-grams, a type of photography that does not require a camera, but rather one simply lays things on the surface of a light sensitive paper and then exposes it to light. The process leaves behind an x-ray-like image of the object on the paper. But these canvases, while clearly referencing photography (a medium Rippert was largely known-for at one time), there is a deliberative intervention of the artist’s hand. It’s a play between the two disciplines of photography and painting that Rippert has been toying with for years, and this time he totally nailed it.
Overall, Ingenuity seems to be at the peak of its game – this year had something for everyone, and was so large and complex it felt overwhelming. This was all somehow pulled together by an incredible team, including the logistic genius and totally awesome artistic director Emily Applebaum. She describes Ingenuity as “the collective daydream of nearly 1000 minds”, and it shows. And somehow she and her crack team pulled it off. Kudos to them.
What will Ingenuity look like in the future? My one criticism was the “sameness” of some of the exhibits, several have been there for years. Will having the Hamilton Complex as a permanent location lead to staleness? I suppose we shall see – but the most encouraging thing I saw on their website’s FAQs was a hint to the possibilities of new(/old) locations in the future…
Visit www.ingenuitycleveland.com to learn more about their year-round programs and how you can get involved.