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
The Bindery Projects, 708 Vandalia Ave., 4th Floor, St. Paul