On a rainy April day last year, I went to visit Julia Christensen in Cleveland, Ohio. Julia is a multimedia artist and writer who teaches at Oberlin College. Her book, Big Box Reuse, was published by MIT Press in 2008. The book illustrates what can happen when large retail chains such as Wal-Mart vacate their buildings, allowing local constituencies to adapt the empty spaces for different purposes, ranging from museums to community centers to indoor race tracks. Julia gave me a tour of Cleveland that included sights far from the usual tourist attractions. One of these was HGR Surplus, a resale store for industrial equipment and the focus of her current work, Surplus Rising, which tracks the migration of the equipment from its point of origin to wherever it ultimately ends up: China, Mexico, who knows? We toured the facility (which Julia jokingly referred to as a “graveyard for the rust belt”) and talked about the repercussions of a changing global economy with a Cleveland resident who has patronized the store for years.
Listen to our conversation: