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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Carl Pope's “The Mind of Cleveland”: It’s a strange place

Posted By on Thu, Apr 24, 2008 at 11:27 AM

Carl Pope travels inside the mind of Cleveland, and finds visions of Charles Nagy and lots of encased meats.
For a video that was shown in New York’s Whitney in 2000, artist Carl Pope had his body branded, carved, and tattooed with a poem written by his sister. According to the New York Times—we’re going to take a pass on interpreting this ourselves—it was “endurance art” that “spoke directly to a history of violation by slavery, written in scars on black bodies.” The New Art Examiner—kind of the Tiger Beat for the cubed-cheese crowd—called him the “quintessential post-mainstream artist.” This guy, in other words, is hot shit. Despite—or perhaps because of—that, he might seem a strange choice for Case Western and the Cleveland Institute of Art’s commissioned project “The Mind of Cleveland.” What would a high-faluting art-world superstar know about the brain of a decaying steel city in which he doesn’t even live? Turns out, Pope was the artist for the job—and he did the project justice by letting Clevelanders do the talking. ... You may have noticed buses around the city plastered with ads reading “Cleveland is a city DARING to reinvent itself.” This isn’t yet another attempt at an upbeat city slogan—it’s the response of a Clevelander asked to describe his hometown in a sentence. This is the crux of “The Mind of Cleveland,” and the project’s gallery at the CIA (11141 East Boulevard, 800.223.4700) has its walls emblazoned with colorful displays of the myriad responses. Don’t worry, they’re not all chipper, but they are all spot-on. The quotes include “No money no jobs get out,” “Authentic,” “People here seem to be their own worst enemy,” “I believe in Cleveland, that’s why I’m still here,” “I wish the 9 would run on time,” and, my personal favorite: “One step up from Buffalo, New York.” A few of the quotes have been made into picket-sized posters for the visitor to take home free of charge, for who doesn’t want to wake up to “U Win, U Lose and Then U Lose More” hung above their bed? But the best part about “TMOC” is that it has none of the heavy-handed pretension that plagues most gallery art. “I’ve made no conclusions,” Pope tells C-Notes. “It all comes from people that live their lives here.” Honestly, it’s difficult to tell what Pope did do: he didn’t even filter the quotes, and struggles when asked which are his favorite: “I liked everything, everything, everything. What I really liked about the project is so many of the quotes are from people as young as eleven. ‘Cleveland: what more you need?’ came from an 12-year-old boy from Beirut who had lived in Cleveland for a year.” Move over, “Cleveland +.” Our new slogan: “Cleveland: a 12-year old boy says we’re better than Beirut.” The CIA’s exhibition is free to visit and will be open until early May. To learn more, check out the project’s website. -- Gus Garcia-Roberts

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