10,000 Roses Infiltrate the Bell Labs Holmdel Complex
Artist Sarah Meyohas is filling up the iconic two million square feet complex with thousands of roses.
The Bell Labs Holmdel Complex. Courtesy of Sarah Meyohas.
Ten thousand roses are transformed into digital data sets at the iconic Bell Labs Holmdel Complex in New Jersey. This isn’t the work of a botanist with an archival obsession; this is Roses at Bell, the latest project of Sarah Meyohas, an artist best known for her data-centric and financially-inquisitive artworks, whether considering her stock market paintings or her own cryptocurrency, which operates on a fixed “artistic exchange rate.”
Roses at Bell is a performative piece that fuses nature, visual information, and labor in a quest to find meaning in collected data. The roses, selected for their individual diversity from a local wholesaler, are placed in the Bell Labs atrium where they are plucked and photographed by a number of workers Meyohas has hired for the project.
The workers will determine which petals they consider most beautiful. The selected petals will be transported to another room where a different set of individuals will select the petals that they find most attractive, and will “press them to create a physical subset,” according to the press release. Meyohas mentions that archive theory is an important aspect of the project, “in a sense, each interaction with a dataset becomes a part of the archive—that interaction is traced, and inscribed as additional data that can be made to offer up a second level of information.”
The rose as a base material for the project extends beyond their alluring aesthetic. Meyohas is primarily interested in the relationship humanity has shared with the flower over time. “We generally consider roses objects of our desire. But they are also subjects of desire, in the sense that their desire has manipulated us into helping them bring copies of themselves into existence, and quite successfully. Genes have encoded information,” the artist explains to The Creators Project.
The location of the project is not an incidental choice. Designed by architect Eero Saarinen, the Bell Labs Holmdel Complex was once the research headquarters of the Bell System, the primary American telephone service provider, until 1984. After a court order forced the monopoly to break into smaller companies, the stunning and imposing complex was abandoned. Later this year, the complex will be redeveloped into Bell Works, an enormous series of facilities ranging from a shopping center to office spaces.
The pressed petals will be displayed on vitrines on the wall, for which, Meyohas adds, “there will be no attribution to who pressed the petal,” an anonymity that recalls the nature of industrial labor; the history behind the final fabricated object remains forever hidden to the consumer. What the artist will do with the digital petals and dataset remains a secret, but knowing her track record, they will likely be components for further hyper-cerebral artistic exploration.
See Sarah Meyohas' Roses at Bell in Episode 3 of Culture Beat, made possible by Microsoft Surface:
More of Sarah Meyohas' work can be seen on her website.