Austrian-born artist Martin Roth is also a part-time landscaper, in a way. Roth creates temporary indoor lawns by growing real grass on worn Persian rugs. His first rug-lawn installation was in 2012, and now his latest live art is on display at the Korean Cultural Center in London. Just like a real lawn of fresh grass, the installation will change over time, starting from tiny sprouts that outline each rug’s pattern, and then growing tall enough to obscure the intricate Persian designs.
Now based in New York, Roth tends to his installations like a careful gardener, watering the grass seeds regularly until tiny grass roots take hold of the tough fibers of the rugs, which are often arranged in a patchwork covering an entire room. Over the course of the exhibit, the grass grows taller and the patches spread wider, covering more of the rugs as time wears on. Eventually, at the end of the exhibit run, the grass dies, practically consuming the rug’s fibers in the process. This is precisely what will happen at the Riptide show in London.
Roth also works with other forms of plant life and animals in unusual ways. Many of his installations involve releasing animals into environments where you might not expect them (such as the 50 crickets he let loose in an industrial building) or back into the wild, as he did with six ducklings he rescued and cared for in his studio in 2010. In 2012, he turned an art gallery in Austria into a shallow aquarium by flooding the space and introducing several fish. There, at least, stepping stones were installed so visitors could still keep their feet dry, if they walked carefully enough.