The Iron Ring
2013
Imperata cylindrica, iron, artifacts from the evolution steps, HD Video, glass, wood, steel

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, 24kg of
iron-tainted grass was removed from contaminated mining grounds and transformed into a ring of 2g 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 hyperaccumulating 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 utilize the cleansing process of the naturalized, 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 unutilized. 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 24kg of grass harvested from the acidic river banks of a landscape in Spain severely transformed by opencast mining.

The Iron Ring was made possible through the support of Production Network for Electronic Art, V2_ Institute for the Unstable Media and the Arts Council Norway. Special thanks to Linda Tulldahl, Silvia Czaia and Antonio Serrano, Raymond Abell and Brian Studd at Laboratory Services International, Eric Hulsman, Thijs van de Manakker, Marnix de Nijs, Eva Brita Åkerlund and Odd B. Gaustad at Rolls-Royce, Bergen Engines Foundry and Toni Bogdanoff and Esbjörn Ollas at the School of Engineering, Jönköping University. The Iron Ring was awarded Second Prize in VIDA 16.0 Fundación Telefónicas Art & Artificial Life International Awards in 2014.

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Installation view
Dimensions variable. Photo by Stina Glømmi

Installation view
Dimensions variable. Photo by Jan Sprij

Harvest: I. cylindrica, wooden crate, tarpaulin, soil
Photo by Carina Hesper

Cleaning and Drying: water extracts, glass jar, label/tarpaulin, lashing strap
Photo by Carina Hesper

Burning: I. cylindrica ash, magnet, metal container
Photo by Carina Hesper

Analysis: metal scan analysis, peristaltic pump, plexiglas
Photo by Carina Hesper

Direct Reduction: iron slag artifacts, charcoal
Photo by Carina Hesper

Direct Reduction II: loam and metal furnace/iron bloom, metallic iron
Photo by Carina Hesper

Smelting: metal and loam furnace/melted graphite crucible
Photo by Carina Hesper

Smelting II: cast iron, refined iron, slag, carbon, metal clamp, graphite crucible
Photo by Carina Hesper

Casting: cast iron, metallographic analysis, sand casting mould, graphite crucible
Photo by Carina Hesper

The Ring: iron ring, found protection case
Photo by Carina Hesper.