Crooked River

Crooked River in the First and Third Persons
July 2008
Cleveland, Ohio


Crooked River in First and Third Persons is a 48-hour way-finding via sound experiment that re-engages the multiple legacies of the Cuyahoga River – its industrial fires, marine life losses, engineers’ ambitions, immigrant dreams, serpentine navigations – with its contemporary forms of agency. This displaced current was produced by recording the river, collecting its stories, and then broadcasting these stories from a series of FM transmitters along the songline of the immaterial river. Interceptable by any FM receiver – iPods, portable radios, car radios, etc. – people tuned themselves to both the physically changing contemporary landscape around the river, and the stories and sounds of the river. The project also included a floating device that was launched upstream during the first day of the Festival at a location that is the equivalent of 3 river days away from Cleveland. This geo-tagged device journeyed toward the Festival and served as a living interface to the river. This device relayed its position and sent historical photographs of its location to peoples cell phones and computers.


The two primary features of the project invite participants to re-imagine how we “navigate” and interact with the river by audibly tracing the songlines through the Festival and by visually tracing the river’s landmarks via SMS photos. As Clevelanders contributed their stories via web, skype or post, their narratives became folded into the ongoing aural archive, which was continually accessible throughout the duration of the project. Participants became attuned to the river, not simply as a geographical feature, but rather as a dynamic zone where ecosystems, and industry, pleasure and labor become intertwined with the unfolding history of the Cuyahoga.


Crooked River expanded the geographical and cultural reach of the Ingenuity Festival to include a broader bandwidth, fostering discussion and engagement with Cleveland’s complex history and morphology. Members of spurse staffed a booth during the duration of the Ingenuity Festival, training participants on the use of the various listening recording apparatuses.


  • Ingenuity Festival
    Flats Oxbow Association
    Grand Arts
    Vicci Simpkins and Russ Eckles: Cleveland Rowing Association
    Matt Previts: St. Ignatius Rowing Crew
    Christopher Alvarado and Dan Meaney: Cuyahoga County Planning Commisssion
    Michael Ciccarello: Cleveland Dragon Boat Association
    Bill Barrow: Cleveland Memory Project
    Jim White: Cuyahoga River Community Planning Organization
    Robin Yates: Brownstone Inn Downtown
    Capt. Wayne Bratton, Holiday Cruise Boat
    Ohio University
    Jose Alcala and Marissa Gregory: MADLAB
    Ohio EPA Department of Surface Water Management
    Track America
    US Coast Guard 9th District
    US Army Corps of Engineers Buffalo District

    View articles here

    “Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River is a complex template of history, infrastructure, culture and flowing water which courses through the city on its crooked axis. The river holds many stories –industrial fires, marine life losses, engineers’ ambitions, immigrant dreams, childhood excursions upstream. The river’s cultural narratives, however, are overshadowed by limited access to its banks and by a serpentine coordinate system that disorients and deters engagement. Our proposal re-activates these narratives as a series of“songlines” that re-insert the cultural dimensions of the river into the physical template of the city.” – Iain Kerr and Petia Morozov, Project Coordinators