It’s early autumn, and soon the leaves will begin their colorful exit and puffy coats will cover the backs of Chicagoans until April. Inside EBERSMOORE, there's already a bramble of dried vines suspended on a platform, beneath a lamp that has managed to keep one area green. More engaging than its sculptural counterparts, the central piece of Rob Carter’s exhibition “Culte” is the eponymous nine-minute long high definition video of a plant’s life-cycle in reverse, complete with a soundtrack of religious and athletic chanting, and rustling, sprouting noises.
Carter animates eight months of time-lapse photography of plants growing around paper models of fantasy architecture. As dead vines are resurrected on two screens on adjacent walls, their rapid growth spreads green around a hybrid model that combines the Gothic exteriors of European cathedrals with the interior of a sports stadium. The ripening zucchini plant blossoms and becomes increasingly dense. The stems rally over the stadium, with its artificial-looking turf and tiny spectators. The music passes a victorious, aggressive crescendo to return mournfully, as the plant shrinks back into the earth leaving the structure alone on the speckled soil that resembles a starry sky.
After the events of September 11th, it’s clear architecture is as much of a visual representative of systems and structures of power as it has been for centuries. Throughout Carter’s oeuvre, imaginative reconstructions like the one in Culte stand in for larger social and political themes, and align with notions of community, ritual, and urban development. By use of these manipulated architectural models, the public's bread and circuses, from Roman gladiatorial events to Nascar races, are directly paralleled with the equally bombastic traditions found in Christianity and Capitalism.
Titled after the French word translation for "cult", elements of the word's meaning--worship and cultivation--are echoed in religion, sports, and the natural world. Visually, time-lapse never fails to fascinate those of us that are hypnotized by geeky science things, but Culte is, of course, more complicated. It's like a crisp dream--animated surrealism with more politics. Carter’s strange edifice, hiding at times in the lush greenery, joined by the sound of human and plant noises, undeniably questions complex ideologies with help from the vivid, temporal images of nature.
-Mia DiMeo, ArtSlant Staff Writer