There's a photograph I know that shows a kid's bicycle lying on its side, one wheel turned upright, a smear of blood tracing its path on the concrete. There's a little package still latched to the back, waiting for its owner to return. You can see where the bike swerved, then lost its way. Someone's been hurt. Or worse. The blood is still damp, the trail fresh. Whose blood was it? A child's, I imagine — from an accident? A shooting? The photo was taken by Annie Leibovitz during a war in Yugoslavia. It's called Bloody Bicycle (Sarajevo, 1993), and the picture doesn't just invite you, it compels you, forces you to ask, "What just happened?"
It's a home surrounded by a perfect circle of destruction — a kind of ground zero in reverse; the center is intact, everything else ruined.
Look more closely, you can see the house is small; the little girl lingering in the garden (is she the only survivor?) comes from a model railroad set. She's maybe a half-inch tall. This scene, the house, the garden, the girl, the vast tangle of debris, could fit on a dining room table, where you could sit down at it like an Olympian god. And, unlike the Leibovitz picture, with the Doyle sculpture you can change your point of view, looking from on high, or crouching down low, choosing any angle you like. But however you look, Doyle's scene, like Annie's photograph, is carefully designed to focus on the same question, "What just happened?"
Doyle's work is about mystery. Why was this one house, this one circle of space, spared? Why a circle? Why so precise, so neat, so tidy a circle? You probe for clues. But Doyle creates moments that confess nothing. Time, for him, is his glue.
His scenes are frozen, locked into a moment. You can't move forward to find out what happens next. You can't go back to find a cause. You are stuck in the Now. And there is no answer to the "what just happened?" question. You'll never know. Which is why you linger. There might be one hidden clue here ... somewhere ...
In this one, you can see something the dad and the boy can't. The mystery — how did an otherwise intact home get buried hundreds of feet down in the soil — is hidden from them. They don't know the house is there. Or maybe they do.
They seem to be looking for something. And there's an empty space — a house-size space — framed by two desolated trees where the man and boy are standing. I see a window frame sticking out of the ground. Maybe they know what happened. Maybe they know the "Why?" and I know the "Where," so I want to lean down and tell them, "Dig. You'll find it 200 feet below." But when I lean in ...