Late artist Dieter Roth’s epic installation 'Gartenskulptur' is a giant work incorporating living, decaying and recycled elements. Construction on the piece began in 1970, and even after Roth’s death in 1998, his son and assistants continued to add materials to the piece. The installation appears as a futuristic foraging structure from an assumed future where recycling and reusing is not only common, but a necessity.
Roth’s piece has traveled to museums around the world, portraying the cycle of life and objects to its international visitors. At first the structure looks like a hodge podge of found objects — discarded chair legs are nailed together to create support beams, shipping pallets create ramps for a makeshift garden area surrounded by plants, and there’s even a platform set for relaxation, with a chair, easel and radio. Recycled picture frames, televisions, tubes and hoses hold the structure together, and plants and birdseed bring a living element to the piece.
The piece is not only made from found and recycled materials, but the waste from construction becomes recycled into elements of the installation itself. Sketches and drawing plans are hung throughout. Leftover glue, paint, and other liquids are jarred and labeled, arranged together to create a library catalog structure that bears the date and name of the city in which Roth and his son Bjorn worked on the piece.
Gartenskulptur has been displayed, and worked on, both inside and out, incorporating elements of each venue into the ever-changing sculpture. You can see the effects of the weather, plant life, and animals on the piece, allowing everyone and any thing to at once destroy and add to the nature of the piece.
Roth’s Gartenskulptur shows the viewer that the decay of both living and found objects is not only a natural occurrence, but that adapting to decay can render most elements still usable.
Images ©Lori Zimmer for Inhabitat