On the morning of June 22, 1969, the Cuyahoga River, whose bends and turns mark the western edge of downtown Cleveland, caught fire. Though it was neither the first such incident nor the most catastrophic, lasting not even long enough to be documented in a photograph, this event unexpectedly became a stand-in for the widespread industrial pollution plaguing American cities and landscapes and an important symbol of the nascent environmental movement. At SPACES, the artist-initiated nonprofit located less than a mile from the river, FRONT 2022 probes this moment in Cleveland’s history through a group exhibition that reflects on the ecological systems that connect us and reveals the tensions between the vitality of nature and the representational systems through which we attempt to understand and tame it.
Lurking on the gallery floor, Isabelle Andriessen’s metabolic sculptures perform by means of animated inanimate materials. Imbued with agency, they feed off of each other as well as their surroundings. They compose a landscape governed by “activist” agents and reveal a grim speculation about the (near) future. In relation to these sculptures are never-before-exhibited prints and drawings by artist, writer, and composer Jurriaan Andriessen that illustrate a utopian empire that envisions systems and architecture that reject capitalism.
Building on his ongoing investigation into the mythopoetics of wind, Haseeb Ahmed’s sculptural installation uses a weather station and aeoliphones to produce a real-time film about how winds affect our lives. Punctuated with meditative close-ups of gently swaying crop fields, Jumana Manna’s film Wild Relatives (2018) investigates the complicated politics around the preservation and repatriation of seeds in the aftermath of the Syrian civil war. Supplementing her film are collages made from packaging for chemical household cleaners that critique the way idyllic representations of nature are used to market environmentally destructive products.
Finally, in response to the overgrowth of algae and the suffocation of other life forms in nearby Lake Erie caused by agrochemical runoff, Cooking Sections cultivates and celebrates regional farming practices committed to using non-polluting alternatives through a floating aerator fountain at the lakefront. The duo’s project draws attention to the crisis while alleviating its effects by returning breath to oxygen-starved populations, both non-human and human, who live in and along the shores of the lake.
All visitors are recommended to wear masks and social distance from staff and other guests. SPACES is located close to the 26, 76, and 81 bus stops, as well as the Red Line Rapid station. Street parking is available throughout Hingetown, as are bike racks. We are wheelchair accessible throughout the galleries.
FRONT exhibitions at SPACES are presented as part of the Dutch Culture USA program by the Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York.