The Tying of Plot 118
SpaceLab takes a walk on the east side
Fallow urban terrain, like Cleveland’s Plot 118 north of Euclid Avenue, is
sometimes called “drive-by” space -- a place commuters speed past on their way to
somewhere else. But such places are too numerous to ignore. According to a
recent article in the Urban Affairs Review vacant lots take up about 15% of most
large American cities’ downtown real estate. Scruffy at best, and at worst polluted
by decades of industrial use, they’re hard to like.
There’s no easy long term fix for these rubble-strewn areas, commonly isolated
behind chain link fences and formerly occupied by anything from residential
housing to factories. But a quickie makeover is another matter, or as Cleveland-
based artist Corrie Slawson puts it, a “fun remediation.” Assisted by about twenty
SPACES gallery volunteers armed with 260 rolls of bright Finnish fabric ribbon
called poppana yarn, Slawson has made a couple of local acres a bit more
loveable. Her project, titled Work Party 118, is underwritten by SPACES Gallery’s
SPACELab. It’s the first of four experimental works the arts organization’s re-tooled
program will undertake in 2010, reflecting a tighter focus on both area artists and
the northern Ohio region.
Once the center of Cleveland’s garment industry, Lot 118’s land runs along the
city’s flashy renovation of Euclid Avenue, just a few steps from a lot of freshly
poured concrete and gleaming futuristic bus stops. Most of Slawson’s multi-colored
poppana was used to make a sort of drawing, stretched out in long, map-like lines
on land at the northeast corner of East 69th Street. A local resident told Slawson’s
party there was once a gas station there, but at the moment it’s home to a tumble-
down pocket park, and is the ward of the not-for-profit MidTown Cleveland Inc.,
which promotes the stewardship of the surrounding two square mile area.
On a sunny morning last week SPACES’ artists wrapped the hot pink, baby
blue, lavender, and lime green ribbons around several steel rods, sticking up from
the top of a partially demolished cement block wall. From there they unspooled long
lines of color, tying strands to low stakes set in the ground. The resulting triangular
shapes shimmered above the snow, vibrating in the breeze like a stringed
instrument. Nobody was expecting anything quite so sweet. The crew also collected
and wrapped trash for transport back to the gallery, where it will be part of an
installation conceptually linked to the physical site.
“We’re doing something,” Slawson says. As co-founder of the publication
Hotel Bruce, which concentrated on the intersection of art and urban affairs,
Slawson is a veteran activist on the Cleveland scene. “No great claims – this is
quick and dirty.” But as a kind of drawing on one of Cleveland’s smudged, blank
pages, Slawson’s ephemeral work, harking back to roots in 1960’s artist Robert
Smithson’s earth art and experiments with off-site mapping, is a kind of marker in
the neighborhood’s long history, a quick and happy sketch of future time.