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Issue Date: July 2013

Labor of Love

Performance artist Susan Byrnes asks Clevelanders to proclaim their adoration for the city. 
Chris Dobstaff

As the housing crisis struck Cleveland in 2008, leaving thousands of foreclosures in its wake, many began viewing the city as broken, but not Cincinnati artist Susan Byrnes.

"It got me thinking about people's hopes for revitalization and reusing the assets that they already have," she says.

Byrnes' upcoming work, Mending Is Better Than Ending: Cleveland Revival, is a reversal of a phrase that appears in Aldous Huxley's dystopian novel Brave New World. Rather than focus on the negative, the interactive performance piece — appearing at the Sculpture Center July 27 — displays the resilience of Cleveland and its citizens.

In order to uncover genuine feelings about the city, Byrnes collected audio interviews about Clevelanders' favorite places throughout the city and then edited and remixed them into a cellphone-accessible audio tour that anonymously presents what people love about living here.

During the performance, visitors will be asked to write, draw and express their favorite spots on pieces of paper and fabric erected in a tentlike structure adorned with a topographic drawing of the city.

"This piece gives people an opportunity to spend time thinking about what they value in their city," Byrnes says.


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