A public garden & cultural center

Sreshta Rit Premnath

Call & Response | September 10–December 3, 2017

Pictured above: Splay, 2017, tar, rubber and ginger, 24 x 24 x 72 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Wave Hill. Photo: Stefan Hagen.

Sreshta Rit Premnath’s sculptural piece refers to both his ongoing series Plot and his 2011 Sunroom Project Rhizome. With Plot, he explores the paradox between the physical occupation of land with one’s body (squatting) and the abstract accumulation of property as evidenced by the real estate market. For Rhizome, he grew ginger plants in a mound of soil in the Sunroom, surrounded by a stanchion that created a barrier around the plants. Splay, installed on the floor, is made of rubber and asphalt, and creates a planter that cradles rosemary and bromeliad plants, which will keep growing throughout the exhibition. Its figure-like form suggests multiple interpretations, including a trace of the human body or a corpse or a body that nourishes and supports the new growth.

Sunroom Project Space | October 22–December 1, 2011

Rhizome, 2011, ginger plants, soil, wood and four metallic C-prints mounted on Sintra, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist.

Sreshta Rit Premnath’s art exposes and questions structures of knowledge, power, subjugation and mediation that pervade our culture. With Rhizome, Premnath explores 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 ginger and other genetic material. While India and China are still the leading producers and exporters of ginger, the plant travels through complex global networks from rural farms to trucks, sorting facilities, cargo ships and finally to grocery stores around the world.

Rhizome, 2011

Rhizome, 2011

Rhizome, 2011, ginger plants, soil, wood and four metallic C-prints mounted on Sintra, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist.

Artist website


The Arts at Wave Hill are supported by the Lily Auchincloss Foundation, Inc.; Michael J. Shannon; Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation; the National Endowment for the Arts; New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; New York Community Trust Edward and Sally Van Lier Fund; New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; The Pollock-Krasner Foundation; The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation; and by the Cathy and Stephen Weinroth Commissioning Fund for the Arts.