A Cold Scientific Bludgeoning of a Warm Delicious Dessert

Consider, for a moment, the poundcake.

Dense. Plain. Delicious and proud in its un-spectacular-ness. The confection takes its name from the blunt formula of its traditional recipe: a pound of flour, a pound of butter, a pound of eggs, a pound of sugar. Four ingredients. One utterly un-complex ratio. 1:1:1:1. It is the baking world’s atom—a simplistic base unit, a starting point for more elaborate cake creation.

So what would happen if you blasted it apart?

That question is, in a metaphoric sense, at the heart of a curious show opening tonight at St. Paul’s The Bindery Projects. Artist Nyeema Morgan, in her first exhibition ever in the Twin Cities, has taken 47 “easy poundcake” recipes, culled from a quick Google search, and blasted them apart with computer-aided analysis. Using rigid, rule-based software, Morgan has edited all the recipes into one another, redirecting word placement and eliminating superfluous text. The computer maps out the edits, in a maddening storm of arrows, which form the compositions of Morgan’s 47 “drawings,” each displayed on a ruled recipe card.  She calls it “Forty-Seven Easy Poundcakes Like Grandma Used To Make.”

The ideas here are good ones, and fun to think about. If a cake’s sensory properties—its scrumptiousness, its aroma, its ability to crumble in a cup of coffee—can be deconstructed scientifically, broken down into neat chemistry, what about its psychic properties? Could a computer map out the squishiness of nostalgia? Or comfort? Morgan’s drawings have the inscrutable, hard-data feel of a technical diagram—a cold analysis of a warm baked good. The juxtaposition is nice and neat, as basic and beguiling as the poundcake ratio.

The Dubious Sum of Vaguely Discernable Parts
Opening reception Friday, August 17
7-9 p.m.
The Bindery Projects, 708 Vandalia Ave., 4th Floor, St. Paul