Mix, Match, Meet: Ingenuity Fest Returns with an Eclectic Lineup on the Shores of Lake Erie

Ingenuity Fest has traditionally billed itself as a place where art and technology meet. The organization's artistic director, James Krouse, still likes the spirit of that description, but wants to distance himself from that phrasing. It invokes Art and Technology as imposing cultural forces abstracted from the people who make and use them for personal and communal betterment.

"We used to be defined as a festival of art and tech, but that could be a little limited. You ask, 'Does every piece of art need an LED embedded in it?' Now, we're where humanity and tech come together. Some is high, some is low tech, but it's all interactive," Krouse says.

The interactivity is key, because Ingenuity's mission is to re-engage people with their urban environment and empower them to transform it. This is perhaps most dramatically apparent in their selection of venues forgotten, time-eroded places that for a weekend become the fairgrounds for celebrations of creativity. The fest moves around, taking visitors to neglected corners of the city, and showing what can be done there.

For the second year in a row, Ingenuity is set up on Cleveland's lakefront, near First Energy Stadium and the Great Lakes Science Center. This spacious setup has enough room for an pair of art galleries, movie theaters, a circus tent, stages for theater, comedy and musicians, respectively. It might be the case it will be harder for visitors to narrow down what they're capable of doing than finding something to do.

The galleries encompass both discrete art objects visitors can browse one-by-one, and installations that are experienced through immersion.

William Scheele of Kokoon Arts Gallery hosts Altered Cities/Altered States, a showcase of creatives who bring image manipulation software into a fine arts context. Michael Nekic's Altered City series enhances photos of Cleveland landmarks to give them an electric, extra-present presence. Greg Little's body of work Synoetic Systems tickles viewers' eyes and minds at the same time with incredibly detailed, digitally rendered scientific illustrations.

On the installation side, Brooklyn-based Akimitsu Sadoi makes rain without water, using a wall of LED lights to simulate the patterns of light and shadow cast by falling precipitation. Stephen Tackacs builds a camera obscura, a precursor to movie technology that consists of a box sealed off from incoming light, except for a pinhole which projects a faint image of whatever's outside onto the rear of the enclosure. Through trickery of mirrors, someone looking into the box from above could then see the projected image. However, Tackacs uses a room instead of a box, and allows visitors to stand in the camera itself, watching the world through weird optics. Malory Haas rebuilds the salvaged sanctuary from the now-demolished Euclid Avenue Church of God.

If you lean away from galleries and toward theaters, you've got several to choose from, and plenty of variety on each.

There will be two cinemas. The Screen Room will host independent, feature-length films, often with commentary from the auteurs themselves in the flesh. Cargo Films adds comfy furnishings to a shipping container, and makes it into an intimate venue for avant-garde film shorts played on a continuous loop.  

Underneath the "tiny top," there will be multiple performances of the pop-up theater Voix DeVille. Conceived by Jason and Danielle Tilk (aka "Pinch and Squeal"), the snug carnival tent is a venue for vaudevillian comedy, music, skits, and circus arts.  

Music will be played throughout the day, but probably two of the most anticipated performances are happening Friday night. Krouse recommends checking out the techno jams of Berlin-based DJ Dan Curtin. And the hometown kids inching their way to worldwide noteriety, Mr. Gnome, take the stage at 9:30 p.m.

After dark, enthusiasts of schadenfreude and public humiliation alike can laugh with the Awkward Sex Show podcast as they put on a live show. The Tesla Orchestra serves up food for your inner mad scientist by synching music with 30-foot bolts of manmade lightning fired in the open air. And it still might not be the most electrifying thing happening that night.

Ingenuity Fest runs from Friday, Sept. 20, to Sunday, Sept. 22, at Docks 30 and 32. Admission is free, but a $5 donation is suggested. For more information, including scheduling and access to ticket reservations, call  216-589-9444 or go to ingenuitycleveland.com.

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