Dieter Roth was a prolific mid twentieth century conceptual artist who worked across multiple media. Amongst his creations are a number of works that incorporate common organic material such as cheese, bread, sausage, mould and chocolate; exploring concepts of decomposition and decay.
Embracing physical deterioration and entropy, these works focus upon the important and inevitable process of decay raising consideration of our relationship to this process and what it more widely represents. The works are transitory, their mutability displayed over time. They are constantly changing and inexorably reach a conclusion, fundamentally questioning the notion of permanence of works of art. The online papers provided by The Tate have an excellent summation of his work.
Assumptions of aesthetic beauty are challenged by work of this nature. The structure, form, texture, colour of decomposition and putrefaction are distinctly exhibited. Our reflex is to react with disgust, yet consideration should be given to the essential truth of this process along with the unpredictable ornament that it brings. There is, perhaps, a less conventional beauty to be found in the transformation of the object and the detail of its decay.
Dieter Roth’s work Schokoladenmeer, 1970, comprising chocolate and paper, is shown here.
Image copyright: Estate of Dieter Roth.