Site-Specific Installation forSPACES WORLD ARTIST PROGRAM (SWAP)
SPACES GALLERY — Cleveland, Ohio

 Susan Channing, Director/Curator

RIVER FUGUES began in 2003 by exploring the river and steel mills in Cleveland, Ohio while in residence at SPACES Gallery’s World Artists’ Program.   Lured by fire, water and the imposing presence of volcanic steel mills at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River, my site-specific response became Cuyahoga Fugues, a mixed-media installation inspired by and incorporating generations of stories reflecting the life and dreams embodied by the Cuyahoga River.

Struck by the interdependence of the life of the river, of the people and of the industry to each other, and the fact that my installation would include multiple audio and video components, I turned to the musical structure of the fugue and Glen Gould’s radio composition, The Idea of the North, for inspiration.  With the fugue as a conceptual point of departure and guide for the editing of the multiple video and audio pieces, the collected narratives and video of the Cuyahoga River, the people living and working in the worlds along the river, and the steel mill industry were woven together to become Cuyahoga Fugues in six “voices”.

Mixed-media Installation: 24“ diameter spiral steel pipe; sheet metal window plenums; electrical conduit and fixtures; poly- pipe; portable TV; ice cooler; transistor radio; ice-fishing pole; video projectors; rear-projected video in both “river” and steel pipes; CD players and venting pipes installed in walls; electric light bulbs.
14‘ x 40’ x 40’

Installation photo documentation by Jerry Mann

Video Stills


SPACES Gallery — Cleveland, Ohio

Cuyahoga Fugues Re-Visited shifted from the tangible physical presence of an industrial site with the imposition of steel pipes throughout the space of the 2003 installation, to that of a spare and allusively metaphorical piece in which a “bucket of light” moved slowly back and forth along a track cutting diagonally through the gallery space.

The impetus for the “bucket of light” came from the memory of an image of a steel bucket hauling coal from outside the blast furnace.  Brightly lit by the steel mills’ yellow lights as it moved through a fog of smoke and steam, this bucket appeared as a ball of fire in the black night sky.  Harnessing the power of this mysterious presence, I created a moving “bucket of light” which served as a physical link between the two main walls of video projections - one of which explores the steel mills and the other the Cuyahoga River. 

This solo exhibition also included video documentation of other River Fugues projects created between 2003 and 2012.  These River Fugues were viewed on portable DVD players installed on two walls amidst drawings mapping the related rivers.

MIXED MEDIA with video, steel rods, cables, electrical conduit, one motorized bucket of light constructed of translucent poly and aluminum, Dimensions: 12’ x 40’ x 20’, Installation photos by Jerry Mann


Cuyahoga Fugues- essay by Eleanor Heartney

Also available in: 

RIVER FUGUES – Margaret Cogswell

A book of essays and images of 17 years of River Fugues projects and drawings.