In November 2017 I collected a plant from the garden of a mass shooter.
This exhibition is not an attempt to politicize the shooting or minimize the tragedy. Rather, it is an investigation that asks how the organic world can offer us all a space for dialogue.
I’m Martin Roth, an Austrian-born New-York based artist, and I’ve spent the past several months traveling to the home of the Las Vegas Strip shooter Stephen Paddock. While exploring Paddock’s garden, I found an outlier: a single small saltbush called the desert holly growing out of the gravel-covered garden. For my upcoming exhibition on March 31st at yours mine & ours in New York, I am examining the healing powers of this desert holly.
By giving agency to plants and by viewing them as collaborators, I hope to raise questions about how we cope with violence. I don't believe in a hierarchy of humans, animals, and plantlife, and with my work, I hope to show how plants can change us -- and affect change.
Stephen Paddock was the deadliest mass shooter in U.S. history. Despite months of searching by the police and the press on behalf of the American people, Paddock's motive for the shooting is still unknown, so I went to try and find out myself.
Why is this important?
With this new project, I aim to investigate the idea of assigning meaning to a plant found in a specific environment.
Stephen Paddock lived in a calm and tranquil retirement community in Mesquite, an hour’s drive from Las Vegas, Nevada. Like many gardens in hot climates, Paddock’s is covered in gravel; however, his was especially barren. All bushes and shrubs seemed to have been planted at random without any thought or affection. All the plants had been purchased in a local nursery but, while studying the property, I discovered a tiny native plant growing. It was the single element out of place in this lifeless garden of sharply trimmed and perfectly round bushes. I investigated further and discovered it was Atriplex Hymenelytra, or the desert holly. This tiny silvery-whitish-gray desert saltbush is native to the American Southwestern sand and is the most drought tolerant saltbush in North America. It lives despite its circumstance.
Native American plant shamanism prescribes that the antidote to one’s troubles can be found naturally occuring in the plants of one’s immediate environment. With that in mind, I want to display this desert holly plant in New York City to provide a space for observation and reflection. Please join me as we realize this next immersive project.
About the artist
For the past decade I have been creating immersive installations that work with living organisms which respond or develop according to their imminent patterns of behavior in collaboration with an intervention or setting initiated by me. Through these intimate conversations with plants and animals, I seek to ask questions and seek answers about contemporary culture.
My most recent work also dealt with the healing properties of plant life. I installed a subterranean lavender field in midtown Manhattan where the lights above the plants increased or decreased in direct relationship to the tweets of a powerful public policy maker: as these statements were retweeted with greater frequency, the lights would get stronger. Through this system, the lavender plants became a kind of a perverse index of the politico-cultural climate, metamorphosing these conditions by their thriving. As critic Will Heinrich wrote about the installation in his review, "This isn’t aromatherapy—it’s an experiment in sublimated anxiety." This time I want to create a space to share the discovery of this intricate, unusual plant.
In part, this investigation is about the desire to assign meaning to Paddock’s actions, and the impossibility of doing so.
What will your contribution support?
Your help in this project will allow me to realize an ambitious installation. The installation will remove the viewer from a typical gallery space and immerse them in a space to reflect, question, and respond. I will recreate elements of the Mandalay Bay hotel and aim to bring the viewer as close as possible to Paddock’s actual garden in Mesquite.
Kickstarter uniquely allows for a community to participate in and help drive attention to a project that may otherwise be missed or impossible to realize. The platform invites people from all over to take part in a creative endeavor and art specifically, has a way of addressing current issues in a way that is more subversive and sensitive. It is also important to me to see a community gather behind this project. The grassroots nature of Kickstarter mimics the grassroots approach to policy change, obtaining a solution by, with and for a community.
Desert Holly Pin
Receive a Desert Holly pin for yourself and a friend.
Signed Copy of Artist Book
Receive a signed copy of the artist's monograph published last spring. It includes a large selection of past installations and in-depth essays by art writers and critics.
Limited Edition Print & Seed packet
Print with seed packet (10x13) Receive a limited edition research print with seed packet. Edition of 30.
Limited Edition Print (large) & Seed packet
Large print with seed packet (15x20). Receive a limited edition print with seed packet. Edition of 5.
Sculpture by Martin Roth
Own a unique sculpture by Martin Roth. Ready made, papier-mâché and soil. Based on an object encountered during his research. One of a kind.
Risks and challenges
Transfering plantlife from one environment to another always incorporates challenges in care and survival. I’m already caring for 7 desert plants brought from Nevada to my studio in New York in the fall. During this specially cold winter it was a challenge to create an environment that is suitable for them. Moving the small saltbush along with the other plants to the gallery for installation will require lots of planning and care in order to make sure they survive and thrive.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)