The Iron Ring Project (2013)

Cecila Jonsson

Sponsor: PNEK, Host: V2_Lab


Where ‘green mining’ aims for a more ecological approach to mining metals, The Iron Ring explores how contaminated mining grounds can benefit from the mining of metals for jewellery. In The Iron Ring scenario 24kg of iron-contaminated grass are removed from polluted 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 compared to other metals. Extensive and abandoned metal mines and other human activities have however led to an acceleration of metal release into the ecosystem and has reached toxic levels. So-called iron hyper-accumulating plants are tolerant to inorganic irons and are able to grow on polluted grounds. There they extract the metal to store it in extremely high concentrations inside their roots, stems and leaves. For cleaning of the polluted soil to take place, the process however relies on human interaction: harvesting. The plants’ biomass – in other words, their polluted biological material – needs to be removed from the ground before the plants wilt and the metal falls back to the ground. After the harvest new sprouts can grow and continue the clean-up.

The Iron Ring installation takes a visitor through the project’s trials and failures, a process conducted in close collaboration with gold- and blacksmiths, researchers, technicians and farmers that were acquainted along the way of the project. The installation consists of artefacts and video documentation that represent the seven steps that were required to create an iron ring from 24kg of grass harvested from the acidic river banks in an area where the landscape was severely transformed by iron ore mining. The resulting ring forms a proof of concept for the production of jewellery in a way from which mining grounds benefit rather than merely ‘suffer less’.

The Iron Ring was the result of Cecilia Jonsson’s participation in the Summer Sessions 2013. Her Summer Session residency at V2_ was financially supported by the Production Network for Electronic Art (PNEK), a Norwegian partner in the Summer Sessions network for talents development.

Acknowledgements: Linda Tulldahl / Silvia Czaia, Antonio Serrano / Raymond Abell, Brian Studd, LSI Assays, Laboratory Services International / Eric Hulsman,
goldsmith / Thijs van de Manakker, blacksmith / Marnix de Nijs, media artist / Eva Brita Åkerlund, Odd B. Gaustad, Rolls Royce, Bergen Engines, foundry / Toni Bogdanoff, Esbjörn Ollas, School of Engineering, Jönköping University, materials, manufacturing and casting.

With special thanks to: PNEK _Production Network for Electronic Art, Norway, V2_ Institute for the Unstable Media, The Netherlands, and Arts Council Norway for their generous support.

This project was developed during a residency as part of a Summer Sessions residency at V2_.