This is the final week that Nyeema Morgan's installation Forty-Seven Easy Poundcakes Like grandma Use To Make is on view at BRIC Rotunda Gallery. The installation – which includes 47 digital drawings based on easy poundcake recipes found on the internet, as well as handmade wallpaper and a take-away newspaper publication – has been well-received by everyone from the volunteers who helped bake 47 poundcakes for the opening reception through to the press (read The Wall Street Journal's "Culture Count" article on Nyeema's work). In observance of this final week, we had Nyeema reflect further on all of the different aspects of her exhibition. Why poundcake recipes?
The use of pound cakes as a subject was incidental. It coincided with musings on my grandmother's legacy, things she passed on to my mother and myself and my on-going thoughts about process and procedures (as evident in everyday activities). These are topics I think about in regards to my own methodologies, creative strategies and the making of art work.
Your Forty-Seven Easy Poundcakes Like grandma Use To Make installation at BRIC Rotunda Gallery deals with the notion of authenticity in the digital age. Is this something you were interested in before creating this work? Has creating this work made you feel a certain way about the topic?
Yes, I think about this a lot. I'm fascinated by our contemporary culture in the digital age and our role not only as consumers of content but producers. We're all involved in this new economy of information, whether it's broadcasting through social media or employing new and accessible tools that expedite creative production. With these new processes and practices we cultivate the same type of polished aesthetic. Everything kind of looks the same. Also the sheer quantity of information I consume supersedes my lifetime of experience with actual people, places and things. I think this can create a false illusion of familiarity and understanding. It amplifies the distance between us and the world. When I started this project I naively perceived of the internet as being this vast virtual space containing an infinite amount of information. After searching for "easy pound cake recipes" I noticed that after I found the initial 47, the recipes began to repeat themselves in different locations. It was this eye-opening revelation that there is indeed a finite amount of data out there that just gets repeated or appropriated and re-presented- much like the world we live in. The difference being, outside of the computer I don't have access to the innumerable sights and sounds from the far farthest reaches of the world. As I was making this work I asked myself, as I do with all my work, does this exist out there somewhere, maybe in a more efficient way? It's a difficult question to try to answer especially when I feel exposed to so much. How do I negotiate the existence of my works in a world of so much stuff? I guess, in this regards, sometimes I feel like a moderate amount of ignorance is bliss. So when I finished Forty-Seven Easy Poundcakes and looked back at the project it captured that sentiment- the negation of superfluous information. All of these recipes are flattened.
For the opening reception of your installation at BRIC Rotunda Gallery, 47 volunteers baked poundcakes based on the recipes you used to create your digital drawings. What did you think of the outcome and of the participant's enthusiasm? Did it add something unexpected to your work?
I was so thrilled by the level of participation and everyone's enthusiasm. You know, for me, looking at a work of art- although intellectually or emotionally stimulating can be an anesthetic experience. You kind of walk around a space and stop and walk back again. I've always felt the most fulfilled when fully engaged, whether its participatory works or I'm moved to activate my body in certain ways (consciously or subconsciously). I want to be a part of an experience and not just a spectator, and I imagine others feel the same, which is very comforting to me - to see, as I did in my show in the Project Room, that people want to be physically, actively involved, not just with the work, or me, but with each other. There was a lot of critical conversation, in my absence, amongst the volunteers. They spoke about their process, desires, failures...and we ate cake together. That was all quite unexpected and I can't imagine showing Forty-Seven Easy Poundcakes work again without the inclusion of this activity.
Will you continue to create work that touches on the same ideas and themes relayed in Forty-Seven Easy Poundcakes (i.e. authenticity, rule-based process etc)?
Yes, these are themes I'm interested in in general, in or outside the studio.
Would you share one of your more favored poundcake recipes with us? What makes this a favorite?
Well, I'm not going to share my grandmother's recipe. Of course it's my favorite. It's familiar, I'm biased. Sorry for my selfishness but I think some things are best kept close, but I would be happy to bake one for you.
Learn more about Forty-Seven Easy Poundcakes on our website, and more on Nyeema Morgan's work on the artist's website. Compiled by Abby Clark Images: (top) Installation shot of Forty-Seven Easy Poundcakes Like grandma Use To Make, photo: Abby Clark; (middle) Forty-Seven Easy Poundcakes Like grandma Use To Make, (7 of 47); (bottom) photo: Nyeema Morgan