Hyperaccumulators are a fairly new phenomena in the development of land reclamation. In most cases, hyperaccumulators are used namely in abandoned land fills and dumps that contain high levels of toxic wastes. The way that they work is that many plants found to have this detoxifying nature (like flowering plants and ferns) are planted in these areas where they are shown to absorb these toxins in their stems and leaves. Once this absorption process has taken place, the plants are harvested and then recycled for the metals within.
In this week’s readings, Wilson discusses Revival Field, a Mel Chin project that involves the detoxification of an Minnesotan landfill with the use of hyperaccumulating plants. These plants essentially absorb harmful heavy metals from the earth, zinc and cadmium in this case, into their roots and leaves to detoxify the land.
I think what I found most interesting from this project was the fact that these plants are cleaning the land from its impurities in a way that changes their composition from plant to that of the toxic metals they take in. After further reading I found out that the plants are then taken to be recycled for their metals, acting almost like a ground magnet for all the harmful metals in the ground.
What I also found interesting from this project and the other biological projects from the this week’s readings and lecture, was their sometimes undisclosed connection to art. In the case of Revival Field, Chin classifies this project as a sculpture. By definition, sculptures are two- or three-dimensional representations or abstract art forms, usually done by carving stone or wood or by casting metal or plaster. Sculptures usually contain a reduction process during the carving or casting process and in Revival Field, Chin views the extraction of chemical toxins as the reduction process.
Still, I found that the whole process of hyperaccumulation with the use of plants and the idea of reclaiming land both ecologically and artistically very interesting. This whole topic actually reminded me of a reclamation project I had learned about last year that took place in a mining pit in Utah in the 70’s. In this large-scale aesthetic project, Robert Smithson essentially created a sculpture from an abandoned mining pit near the Salt Lake. (Image of Spiral Jetty below)