While “green mining” aims for a more ecological approach to mining metals, The Iron Ring explores how contaminated mining grounds may benefit from the mining of metals. For The Iron Ring, 24 kg of iron-tainted grass was removed from contaminated mining grounds and transformed into a ring of 2 g metallic iron.
Iron is considered very important to life in general and has a lower toxicity than other metals. Extensive or abandoned metal mines and industrial activities have, however, caused metal releases into the ecosystem to accelerate and reach toxic levels. So-called iron hyper-accumulating plants are tolerant to inorganic iron and can grow on these degraded grounds. There they extract the metal from the soil to store it in very high concentrations inside their roots, stems and leaves. The means of “cleaning” the polluted soil however, is a periodical commitment that relies on human interaction: harvest. The plants’ metal enriched biomass (in other words, their contaminated biological materials) needs to be removed from the ground before the plants by season wilt and the extracted metal reverts back to the soil. So that after the harvest is removed, new sprouts can grow to continue the decontamination process.
The project elaborates on the possibilities to utilise the cleansing process of the naturalised, wild growing grass: Imperata cylindrica. An invasive vile weed, which overlooked tolerance and ability to hyper accumulate iron inside its roots, stems and leaves are left un-utilised. The Iron Ring proposes to harvest the grass for the purpose of extracting the ore that is inside them. The result is a scenario for iron mining that, instead of furthering destruction, could actually contribute to the environmental rehabilitation of abandoned metal mines.
The Iron Ring installation takes a visitor through the project’s trials and failures, in a process of close collaboration with smiths, scientists, technicians and farmers met along the way. The installation
consists of artefacts and video documentation that reports on the seven chronological steps that were required to create an iron ring out of 24 kg of grass harvested from the acidic river banks of a landscape in Spain severely transformed by opencast mining.
Photos: Stina Glømmi & Carina Hesper. Video stills: Cecilia Jonsson
Developed with the support of Production Network for Electronic Art (PNEK), V2_ Institute for the Unstable Media and the Arts Council Norway.
Special thanks to Linda Tulldahl, Silvia Czaia and Antonio Serrano, Laboratory Services International, Eric Hulsman, Thijs van de Manakker, Marnix de Nijs, Eva Brita Åkerlund and Odd B. Gaustad at Rolls-Royce Bergen Foundry and Toni Bogdanoff and Esbjörn Ollas of the School of Engineering at Jönköping University.
Cecilia Jonsson (1980 SE/NO) is a visual artist whose research-based projects spans from installation, sculpture, sound, image and kinetic works. Her work is informed by scientific methods and often consists of site-specific, artistic interpretations of phenomena and processes of nature. The projects are developed as investigations of physical and ideological properties of the raw materials that form the basis of human existence, from origins deep down in the earth, to the extraction, transformation and global exploitation.
Jonsson is interested in how matter and material things can participate in, influence and mobilize a variety of social processes as well as the elasticity of both materiality and agency when they take different expression in different disciplinary traditions. By coordinating objective research methods with personal subjective experience, her work fuses biology and history with a materiality that intersects arts, sciences, environmental politics, aesthetics and technology in a contemporary alchemy.
Cecilia Jonsson holds an Master in Fine Art from the Bergen Academy of Art and Design and the Nordic Sound Art Program. Her artistic work has been shown internationally in numerous exhibitions and has received awards such as the COAL Art and Environmental Prize (nominee 2018), the Prix Ars Electronica, Hybrid Art (Honorary Mention 2017), Bio Art & Design Awards (Award 2016) and the VIDA 16.0 International Awards (2nd Prize 2014).