It’s hard to forget the first math textbook that contained the answers to homework problems in the back. The idea—that the answer isn’t nearly so important as the process of achieving it—was novel.
Deborah Adams Doering’s installation, “Grand Rapids Redux,” is such an exercise in working backwards. While the answer is provided as her temporary, riverside earthwork created in September and October of this year for Grand Rapids, Michigan’s ArtPrize competition, the current installation at Finestra Art Space shows the algebra behind the solution. Photographs, human-scale stencils, cans of eco-friendly paints and media clips combine to document the making of Doering’s “Code for the Grand River, Grand Rapids_09.”
While any presentation of a foregone ephemeral artwork could be argued as working in reverse, the content of both “Code” and its posthumous documentation supports this reading. From examining binary code of the present, technological age in terms of a circular form in motion (a rotating circle appearing as a “0” at times and a “1” at others), Doering goes on to develop a series of nine circularly derived symbolic codes that express the motion of Grand River. Recalling hieroglyphically inspired abstraction, “Code for the Grand River, Grand Rapids_09” juxtaposes the digital age with the natural world in an environment of human interaction. This integration of art, nature and technology is seen in the work’s title, akin to a digital file with an underscore-and-date suffix.
If the present—an age underpinned by binary code—is the provided answer of an unknown math problem, Doering’s installation shows one means of arriving at that solution: hindsight as insight. (Justin Natale)
Through November 27 at Finestra Art Space, The Fine Arts Building, 410 S. Michigan Ave.