The word, ‘world’ immediately brings up complex associations. Infinitely many elements, which are interconnected yet mutually dependent, produce and determine a hypercomplex system. When one thinks of the problems of our time, our thoughts twist into a Gordian knot, and the strands are so intricately intertwined that it seems impossible to link causes and effects. We are left with no clear answers, only loose ends.

Globalisation - Justice - Competition - Consumption - Identity - Resources - Digitisation - Sustainability.

Each of these tags is related to the modern constitution of the world. If you try to systematize these concepts, one quickly reaches a limitation: for example, how are the areas of sustainability and resources connected? Can we use natural resources sustainably? What resources have been exhausted in the foreseeable future? What environments have been irreparably damaged by resource extraction? Which countries can afford to protect their natural resources? At what price? These questions necessarily lead to questions about the consumer. What do we choose to consume, and how much? Do we consume sustainably produced goods? Why? Why not? Are consumption and the logic of the commodity inseparable? How does consumer behaviour differ between societies? Are subsistence and consumption equivalent? In what proportion do different demographics consume goods? What does our consumer behaviour say about us? As you can see, consumption gradually merges with the issue of identity, and raises new questions. How strongly do we connect identity with consumption? What status symbols are central to our self-expression? What physical indicators do we use to categorize our fellow human beings? What does it mean for society if status symbols play an important role in fashioning our social status? What does this mean for economically homogeneous societies? Economically diverse societies? How does global networking lead to the emergence of new identities, new consumer expectations, new beauty needs? Who dominates the global discourse on identity, consumerism, beauty, ‘the good life’? Who fits in the grid of social and global subject requirements? We consume expensive status symbols—under what social conditions and with what resources are the produced? These questions spiral progressively deeper and expand into contexts of global injustice, competition logic, economic and ecological crises, digital networking, hegemonic status, and identity discourses.

The interplay of these topics clearly shows that it is impossible, in the modern world, to think of these questions in isolation. One question only leads to the next. The individual elements form a system; they are the parts that structure a hypercomplex entity. When one analyzes a single piece of the system, it behaves differently because it is in a different context. If a part is added or removed, the system’s dynamic is changed.

Michael Stoll is concerned with precisely this Gordian knot of unanswered questions. The complex entanglement of elements that structure the complexity of the world is to be found reflected in his individual work and oeuvre. Both in the series Naturally and in the series Bitmaps Stoll plays with the viewer’s proximity to the image. By changing the distance between viewer and image details disappear and structures are revealed that were previously hidden. In this series of structural images Stoll combines analog with digital and experiments with the removal and addition of elements and the impact of these changes on the total system.

Outside of these series, Stoll pushes the game between closeness and distance, and elements and systems, further. In the book arbeiten. Michael Stoll 2002 - 2014 he examines the interaction between subject areas, moving beyond chronology and series. Which images come forth and are dominant? Which disappear in the background? How will changing distances or including the neighbourhood of an image effect its interpretation? What new questions arise at the macro level? What new structures, networks, and dynamics are generated by non-chronological, unthematic arrangements?

In following with this statement, Stoll is concerned with taking a broad thematic spectrum of the modern world, from microstructural issues of identity to macrostructural questions about justice and global production processes. At the same time he raises questions of a more technical, conceptual nature when searching and defining elements in isolation, then returning them to their context. In such a way, he introduces the viewer to his search for the structure that underlies the apparent chaos of the world.

Text: Leonie Lydorf
Translation: Sophia Erdahl