“Rhizome” at Wave Hill

Sreshta Rit Premnath
Rhizome

October 22–December 1, 2011
Reception and artist talk: Sunday, October 30, 1:30PM
Wave Hill,
West 249 Street and Independence Avenue Bronx, NY 10471


Sreshta Rit Premnath’s art exposes and questions structures of knowledge, power, subjugation and mediation that pervade our culture. With Rhizome, Premnath continues to explore the issue of patenting genes of indigenous medicinal plants from developing countries by multinational pharmaceutical corporations. This project focuses on the ginger rhizome, the common cooking ingredient with historically well-known medicinal uses in India and China. Despite the fact that this traditional knowledge has been shared for generations, the plant’s properties are being copyrighted by corporate entities for commercial use. In retaliation, various biopiracy taskforces around the world are contesting these patents.

In his Sunroom Project, Premnath has planted a garden of ginger plants in a “pillbox,” referring to the small box in which one may carry medicines, as well as to a partly underground fort used as a military outpost. This slanted, octagonal container represents a landscape under siege and serves as an island of ambiguous ownership. The photographs on the walls of the Sunroom depict sutured fragments of ginger that emphasize the amorphous shape of the rhizome, while also evoking a cryptic alphabet. The artist sees the ginger plant’s horizontal underground stem, which is formless and spreads randomly, as a metaphor for the worldwide distribution of