Although the diverse work in Susan Murrell's massive show at galleryHOMELAND—which ranges from psychedelic gouache drawings to expansive multimedia installations—is difficult to classify, the concept of classification itself is at the heart of Instinctive Inquiry. Using the visual vocabulary of science and education in general, the Hood River-based artist communicates in a language that asserts the existence of absolutes and promises that even the world's most inscrutable phenomena will reveal their secrets to analysis. But in the artist's unwieldy multimedia presentation, she essentially lampoons epistemology with work that refuses to obey any organizing logic.
In "Archive," Murrell has arranged clusters of sculptures—pieces of porous green coral and translucent, fleshy seaweed—across a wall. Each tiny sculpture is identified with a numerical tag, which corresponds to a JPG image that inspired it. For reference, Murrell has included a clinical white three-ring binder of all the digital source images of aquatic flora and fauna. Of course, the sort of information you'd expect to find in the book—the names of the specimens, why Murrell chose them as subjects—is noticeably absent. According to "Archive," science can be interpreted as little more than an organizing device, in which the rigorous cataloging of information distracts from the abyss of non-knowledge that lurks beneath it.
More to the point is Murrell's perverted bar graph, "Indication of Oversight." Instead of clearly communicating hard data through the monumental rigidity of bars and grids, her graph buckles under the weight of articulating certainty. Its bars are flaccid and spill onto the floor of the gallery in limp, plastic folds. Directional arrows have migrated across the space, grouped in bee-like swarms. And, again, Murrell withholds what is actually being quantified by the graph, using its forms as little more than visual shorthand for scientific analysis. In "Indication of Oversight," it's as if the graph has become animated to acknowledge its own futile insistence on absolute knowledge. And as the bars and arrows refuse to cooperate, randomly malfunctioning, the only information Murrell's graph reveals is the reality of chaos.