July 2006 Issue
Cleveland's Ingenuity Festival celebrates all that's new in art and technology
Sarah Morrison is accustomed to luring art-loving Ohioans to Cleveland with groundbreaking works that use such unconventional subjects as sand sculpture and the psychology of human behavior. But last year, the contemporary dancer/choreographer made waves - literally. She hooked herself up to an EEG machine for an avant-garde performance that visually recorded her brain activity while she danced.
"Talk about being exposed," Morrison recalls of her original composition, "Molecular Bodies Within." "It's an amazing experience to be able to discover your body's reaction to emotions ranging from stress and anxiety to euphoria and exhaustion. The audience thought that it was a really neat experience, too."
Morrison's mixed-media melding was one of 200 performances and exhibits featured during Ingenuity: The Cleveland Festival of Art and Technology, which, if last year's 75,000 attendance figure is an indication, is quickly becoming a can't-miss event for festivalgoers from across the state. Twice as many visitors are expected at this year's event, held on 22 stages July 13â€“16 in downtown Cleveland.
"People here would tell me, â€˜I've been to the great blues festival in Chicago and the wonderful Spoleto arts festival in South Carolina. I wonder why there isn't an event like those in Cleveland,'" says festival founder and executive director James Levin. "After mulling it over late one night while walking my dogs I had a moment of clarity. I thought I'd like to give it a shot - that the constellation might be right."
Levin has been an instrumental advocate for the arts in Ohio for more than two decades, having founded the Cleveland Public Theatre - an institution dedicated to bringing innovative off-off-Broadway-style productions to the north coast - in 1982. In 2004, Levin was ready for a career change. Although he considered the idea of picking up stakes, he decided to start his next arts project right in his own back yard.
"I called all the major heads of arts organizations and asked them if they would get involved [in a festival] - people from the orchestra and the opera and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Great Lakes Science Center," Levin recalls.
Everybody said the time was right.
"People who come to the festival will see things they've never seen before," Levin promises. "The event is proof that art and technology blend very well, and that the possibilities are endless."
The talents showcased are not the only imaginative aspect of the event: Vacant buildings and passageways are transformed into innovative performance spaces. The historic May Company building will set the stage for acts, which include a video mix of classical music and spoken word. Meanwhile, jazz and roots music will resonate from an alley adjacent to the city's trendy East Fourth Street, home to such popular establishments as House of Blues and Hilarities comedy club. The festivities begin with a bang on Cleveland's Public Square July 13 at 5 p.m., when "Symphony for 1,000 Drums," a composition by Kent State University professor emeritus Halim El-Dabh, makes its debut, evoking sounds representing balance, beauty, justice and love.
"The wonderful thing about the festival is that the ways we are integrating [art and technology] in 2006 will look primitive by 2011, and what is unfathomable now will be a key attraction in our 2008 event," Levin says. "The grounds in which they can blend and intersect are infinite."
Choreographer Morrison is putting the finishing touches on her dance piece for this year's festival. Tentatively titled "Orbital Ballet" or "Rendezvous," it's a collaboration with NASA that will incorporate movement, a telescoping manlift and footage of outer space to represent astronauts working at the International Space Station.
"Since my goal is to eventually see what it's like to dance without gravity, I wasn't going to pass up this opportunity to work with NASA," Morrison says with a laugh. And like the other ingenious participants this year, she's eager to rise to the challenge of creating something new.
"It's amazing to walk around and see all the fantastic ideas that are being presented," Morrison enthuses. "Even though there are lots of festivals in town, you don't see many that include established organizations, along with emerging artist John Doe.
"And that's so important," she adds, "because some of the greatest work I've seen has come from brand-new people thinking outside the box."
| Don't Miss|
- "Along the Eastern Shore," an operetta about the late Clevelander Albert Ayler, known for his free jazz innovations.
- Circumference Cycles, a sound and light performance using a hand-blown glass rondelle suspended by steel guitar strings. Vibrations made from striking the glass and strings are amplified and processed while light is projected through the 30-inch glass disk. Accompanying projects become abstract images based on the movements of musicians' hands and bodies on the disk.
- Gruve Lab, a 3-D virtual reality "cave" in which visitors are invited to journey through a variety of environments wearing 3-D glasses.
- "Fossil Fools," examining environmental challenges and possibilities as they relate to new technologies.
- A Digital Video Film Festival, featuring work created by filmmakers age 18 and younger.
- "Julius X," a re-envisioning of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," set in 1960s Harlem.
|Ingenuity: The Cleveland Festival of Art and Technology, downtown Cleveland. Festival Village is located on Prospect Avenue between East 9th and Ontario streets, East 4th Street from Prospect Avenue to Euclid Avenue. Visit www.ingenuitycleveland.com for schedule. July 13, 4 p.m.â€“midnight; July 14, 2 p.m.â€“1 a.m.; July 15, noonâ€“1 a.m.; July 16, noonâ€“10 p.m. Admission $10, children age 12 and under free; all-access pass for July 13â€“16 is $25. |