Greg Stahly – Red Lodge Clay Center

Greg StahlyMount Pleasant, Michigan

I am intrigued by the perpetual state of progress that has come to permeate every aspect of our lives. These systems and structures directly influence our environment, guiding the current evolution of society and, therefore, ourselves. Newer and better systems are in constant development and implementation– all embracing the perceived goal of societal advancement and focused specifically on our notion of sustenance. The natural landscape is being reallocated and altered by these systems which deal with and provide electricity, water, and food to an ever more demanding public. Scientific and technological developments are at the core of this perpetual state of social evolution, providing us with the structural basis of transport, storage, and interface that are the foundations of systems. On a micro level, these varied structures reveal only a fraction of their physical nature, providing evidence of existence only through an operation or a point of active interface. While on a macro level, they are all encompassing and envelope our lives to the point of concealing their existence.

These systems that provide us with sustenance are of great interest to me. While providing us with sustenance, they are simultaneously redefining our very conception of the term. Our relationship to the natural world has been altered by our dependence on these structures as has our notion of what is required to survive. While these systems are developed to provide sustenance, they are not necessarily focused on the notion of sustainability. While seemingly inextricably linked, sustenance and sustainability do not often appear simultaneously in these systems. Sustenance is concrete, immediate and is linked to the here and now, while sustainability is a theoretical, an abstract, and something that can be pushed aside.

I view these relationships with skepticism and awe– simultaneously acknowledging both benefits and detriments. My work deals with our connection to these systems and the implicit dichotomous nature of their impact on society—simultaneously supporting and destroying. Presenting questions about this dependence, as well as the role these systems play in defining our future, is central to my artworks. I do not believe that we can predict the consequence this reliance will have on society in the coming centuries. It is doubtful, however, that scientific and technological progress can produce any overarching system that will lead to the perfect future. My work provides an opportunity to step back and evaluate how we utilize and participate in these systems and structures, in terms of both the impact they are having on contemporary life and the impact they might have on the future.