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Grace Grothaus: The Promise of Progress

First Year MFA Review Exhibition

May 29-31, 12-3 p.m.
Commons Gallery, 404 Visual Arts Facility, UC San Diego

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Fundamentally as a species, we are prosthetic beings that have co-evolved with various forms of technology and external materiality (1). As the centuries have accumulated, so too our tech has evolved, our systems become more elaborate, our power over the forces of the world grown in scale, and the human population grown out of proportion with the rest of the world’s species. It is now 2019, and our persistent belief in human exceptionalism, progress, and the perpetuation of growth has become blatantly unsustainable, yet still persists. Capitalism, the predominant socio-political framework for much of the developed world today, by its very nature hinges around unsustainable consumptive practices. A seemingly unshakable belief in the myth of progress, constant growth, and an obsession with quarterly returns are by their very nature antithetical to long-term thinking and sustainability (2). The Promise of Progress takes the above as its premise and offers a place for reflection about the complexity of the issues at hand. I am utilizing the reflection pool and mirror as means by which to create space for reflection on human agency as well as complicating the experience; disrupting it by incrementally raising the water level and polluting it via industrial apparatus in reference to current worldwide rising sea levels and acidification due to human activity. The anthropogenic issues we face, and the systems and accretions over time that have lead us here are complex beyond our capacity to fully explicate, our future even more uncertain and infeasible to predict. No simple answers are offered, only an ever increasing sense of exigency as the pools rise and darken over the course of this exhibition. The Promise of Progress asserts that the very framework of capitalism and its associated persistent and unwavering adherence to the illusion of human progress underpins our current environmental crisis and is our greatest impediment toward building a future world that is in balance.

(1) Wolfe, Cary. What is Posthumanism? Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010.
(2) Lippard, Lucy R. Undermining: A wild ride through land use, politics, and art in the changing west. New York and London: The New Press, 2014.