Painter Micah Ganske discusses his artistic visions for the World of Tommorow in advance of his solo show at the 101 Exhibit.
By Andrea Steedman-Gillanders
In a landscape where post-apocalyptic movies are debuting weekly, nihilism has made a strong and sturdy comeback, with cynicism present even in jaded seven-year-olds. With this sentiment in mind, the paintings of Micah Ganske are like a breath of fresh air. On Saturday, January 17th, the 101/EXHIBIT will debut new works by Ganske in a solo exhibition entitled “The Future is Always Tomorrow.” These are seductive, curious creations to really spend some time with. Rather than recalling the bleak imagery of doomsday blockbusters, Ganske’s vision for humanity’s future has a tone that is considerably more sunny. This optimism might explain why he attacks his art with such gusto, expanding his scope to encompass his hopes for a better tomorrow. We were incredibly pleased to chat with Ganske about his new show and his unique and fascinating artistic lens.
I know the obvious topic of your show is the future, but I feel like drawing inspiration from the events in “Centralia” and even the idea of imagining the future makes it seem like you’re actually making a commentary on the past, too. In what ways does your art talk about the past as well as the future?
Yes, I want my work to make people consider what is possible through science and technology but I also want to acknowledge the present and to draw attention to our flaws and species-level idiosyncrasies. I have faith in human ingenuity and I think we’ll absolutely (eventually) populate the stars, bring an end to natural death, and all those other lofty science-fiction dreams, but clearly we’re going to screw up constantly along the way in many ways. This is why putting a town like Centralia into a futuristic space habitat makes sense to me. It’s a ridiculous juxtaposition but it feels true to me in an intuitive way. It’s also commenting on the original NASA illustrations of rotating space habitats that I was originally inspired by. I always loved those images, but as I got older I couldn’t help but realize how ridiculous they were. They’re such enormous structures that you’d bankrupt the planet just building one, and then you’d only be able to cram a small fraction of the population on one. The illustrations also depict the stations full of rolling hills and tons of open spaces which are obviously also totally impractical. So part of my new work is definitely about reveling in the nostalgia for this specific vision of the future, but calling out how impractical it is at the same time. No one would ever actually want to live in a habitat like this if they had a perfectly good planet to call home, so the only way you’d get people moving to a station like this would be if earth was totally destroyed, and if that was the case, there’s no way you’d actually be able to harness the resources to build such an enormous structure. But I could talk about this sort of stuff for hours . . . Actually, that’s why I make the work that I do. I think artists should make work about what they want to have conversations about.
Many of your pieces deal with “upgrades” to the human body- do you think this is the future of mankind, and do you see this as a positive or negative thing?
Regarding the body, I think we’re upgrading ourselves constantly and extending our lives through medicine and the research of brilliant humans so I don’t see why it’s any different to augment one’s mind and body with technology. What’s the difference between using glasses to see and implanting technology to further enhance your vision/cognitive capacity? It’s just old and new technology. People like to say things like “well that’s not natural, I only eat/live/exist on natural/organic/raw/etc things”, but that’s just new-age Luddite nonsense. Nothing about our society is natural and everything about it is natural. We’ve evolved to where we are now and part of that is the ingenuity to tweak, alter and improve ourselves and the world around us. Not everything we do is going to be for the best, but that doesn’t mean that a lot of it isn’t great and it certainly doesn’t mean that anything that diverges from it’s wild/natural state is bad. For instance, people are so irrational when it comes to GMO food yet they have no idea what that actually means. We’ve been genetically modifying our food for thousands of years through selective breeding and other agricultural tricks. The fruits and veggies we eat now would be next to impossible for us to eat in their original states. GMO food is just the natural progression.
In the time of postmodern art, where art has become oftentimes a parody of itself, What place do you see art having in the future?
There has never been a better time to be an artist. The tools and technology we have at our fingertips make it possible for individuals to do more than they ever could have done even 10 years ago. In my show I have painting, 3D-printed sculpture, drawings, and a computer generated animation and I did every part of it myself. It’s only possible thanks to recent technology and it’s just going to get better and better. I think art will become more important as technology advances because more people will be able to create things. Eventually everyone will have advanced virtual-reality goggles that they can use to “visit” galleries. They’ll have desktop fabricators so advanced that they’re recreate things down to molecular level. You’ll be able to simply buy the rights to fabricate a work of art. Art will become democratized and devalued while making more for the artist than ever before. Eventually technology will create a post-scarcity society and if you live in that sort of world, novelty/entertainment/culture/art becomes extremely valued and important. The future of art is awesome!
Some of your art seems to reflect an optimism about where the world is headed, while other pieces are a bit dystopian. What are your greatest fears and greatest hopes for the future?
We’re at the cusp of the technological singularity and shit is going to get weirder and crazier than anyone can even imagine. I feel really lucky that I’m young enough to get to see it happen. If things go well, we’ll live forever, if they go badly we’ll all be grey goo. I think things will go well though. 70 years of nuclear weapons and even the craziest dictators weren’t mad enough to actually use them. I think the same will be true for other potentially destructive technologies because it would mean instant death for everyone involved.
What do you have coming up on the horizon after this show? Anything else we should keep our eyes open for?
There are so many things I want to work on after this show (after a much needed week or two of pure slothfulness). I have an illustrated coffee table book I want to make (totally unrelated to the art world). I have a non-fiction book that I keep saying I want to write. I have a bunch of sculptures that are part of the series in my show that still need to be made, and one of those sculptures will incorporate virtual reality into it. And of course there are always more paintings to make. Hopefully the singularity will come soon and make it possible for me to live an extra hundred years to finish all this stuff.
Follow Micah Ganske on Twitter @micahganske.
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