The art of environmental remediation with oysters

MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) is facilitating an art and science collaboration that will grow oysters to remove heavy metal pollutants from the nearby Derwent river.

The project seeks to educate people about the river, its history and its pollutants.

Heavy metals sitting on the bottom in the sediment of the Derwent river include zinc, lead and cadmium. These pollutants come from a history of industrial discharge from a zinc smelter established in 1917, zinc roofs, a paper mill and wastewater treatment plants.

Oysters are good indicators of the amount of bio-available heavy metals in the water. They filter around 50 litres of water a day for algae and other food, collecting heavy metals that are present.

Monash Art Design and Architecture (MADA) are collaborating with MONA. They plan to build two structures – one called the Oyster Pontoon in the river in front of MONA, and the other a ‘retaining wall’, a large public pavilion, where people can encase oysters into a concrete brick.

This pontoon is essentially a small-scale oyster farm, and will culture native mud oysters as a tool to filter metals from the Derwent.

The Oyster Pontoon will be the scientific research hub from which scientists gather data about the river. At the end of their life, the oysters will not have died in vain, but will be heroically entombed in a columbarium in a retaining wall on MONA’s lawn.

This ‘Oyster Mausoleum’ will become a part of MONA’s summer MoMa market, with visitors invited to encase their own hero oyster from the pontoon into a concrete brick before placing it in the retaining wall.

The project is part of a greater project called Heavy Metal that will stretch along the banks of the river Derwent. It also includes a heavy metal concert at the museum itself.

For more information go to the MADA website: http://www.artdes.monash.edu.au

Image: An artist’s impression of the oyster/concrete retaining wall at MONA.

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