Artist Grows Grass Out of Persian Rugs as a Statement About Western Imperialism

Traditional carpets from Middle East.Most interior designers are familiar with the strict rules of rug placement – 12 to 18 inches of floor space must be left on each side of the rug, the rug must cover the majority of the hallway, square rugs go in square rooms, etc.

One Austrian artist, however, has taken everything we know about rugs and turned it all upside down. He uses his rugs to explore the “poetics in everyday life,” as well as to make a strong political statement about Western imperialism.

Martin Roth’s piece, called “untitled (persian rugs),” is currently on display at the Korean Cultural Centre UK in London. His work features a Persian rug planted with seeds that are sprouting grass through the woven threads.

“I wanted to make a work about the recent urge by Western countries to impose their culture and values on other – primarily Islamic – countries, in an attempt to ‘improve’ them,” Roth explained. “When my grass (often made out of wheatgrass seeds) invades the Person carpets, they initially create something new and beautiful. However, ultimately they destroy something old and valuable.”

This piece is the second version he’s created with this idea in mind. He also placed seeds in the carpet of an Austrian castle and nurtured the grass as it grew.

“During the process I become more of a gardener than an artist!” he noted.

At first, the grass mirrors the patterns woven so beautifully into the rugs, but as it grows, the watering spreads the seeds around and creates and entirely different pattern. Eventually, when Roth stops watering the grass, it withers and dies, leaving the rug messy and forever ruined.

“It’s a utopic gesture,” said Roth, “wanting to create something from nothing. Often I’d explain that the grass grows from the dust of history. The work is impermanent, it only lasts for a certain time. Nothing can sustain itself without sufficient nourishment.”

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