Irene Rasmussen – From Seed to Sim

From Seed to Sim 

This June, we welcomed back Irene Rasmussen (Tromsø) within our BAR International program, where she undertook a production-based residency connected to her project From Seed to Sim

Since her first BAR residency in Kirkenes in the autumn of 2018, Irene has been researching and working with industrial areas around Sydvaranger mine/its separation plant in Kirkenes, and the Nornikel factory in Nikel, as potential areas for planting “super plants” – plants that clean up the soil in the polluted areas, soaking up heavy metals and toxic contaminants. 

Several residency periods between 2018 – 2021 in the border area have resulted in the border-crossing project From Seed to Sim, where a process of phytoremediation – a method for cleaning the polluted soil, water and air by using the plants that can soak up heavy metals and toxic contaminants – is the main focus. The goal of the project is to demonstrate how we can collaborate with nature in order to reduce environmental harm and pollution.  

Irene Rasmussen planting sunflowers at Sepverkhagen (Separation Plant Garden) in Kirkenes, June 2021

Sepverkhagen (Separation Plant Garden) 

Irene´s latest residency in Kirkenes was dedicated to setting up and planting Sepverkhagen – Separation Plant Garden located in the industrial area of the Sydvaranger mines´separation plant in Kirkenes city centre. A garden was created that contained “super plants”, such as sunflowers and mustard plants, which are often used for cleansing the highly polluted areas in both soil and water, and are known for their ability to soak up heavy metals.  

Sepverkhagen is an interactive phenomenon. It is an art project, a garden and a meeting place for inspiration and reflection. The garden invites both locals and visitors in Sør-Varanger to become a part of the project and take care of the plants during the growing season – i.e. to water, keep an eye on and even talk to the plants. The garden is the first part of the whole From Seed to Sim project, while the second part will set up a similar garden in the industrial area of the Nornikel factory in Nikel, on the Russian side of the border, in 2022. 

When the growing season is over, the plants will be harvested, dried and burnt. The plant ashes will then be used to regain the iron and nickel from the industrial soil, and the metals will be used to create  a series of micro-sculptures that will be collected together in a final exhibition. 

Kids and flowers 

During the planting week at Separation Plant Garden, we arranged workshops with local kindergartens in Sør-Varanger – Skytterhus kindergarten and Prestøya kindergarten. The kids were invited to plant their own sunflowers in the Separation Plant Garden, where Irene told them about the process of planting, the magical abilities of sunflowers, and why this garden was so special. 

Irene Rasmussen is an artist, public space curator and art consultant. She lives and works in Tromsø, with her studio at Tromskysten. She is educated as a sculptor at the art academy in Trondheim, NTNU at Nordland Film and art school in Lofoten and in Firenze.

The project From Seed to Sim is supported by KORO, Kunst i offentlig rom, Kulturrådet, Barentskult, and curated by Pikene på Broen.

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