Image for A collaboration for the century - The River Derwent Heavy Metals Project

MONA ... surrounded by a river assaulted by mercury, lead, cadmium, zinc and copper.

A group of artists, scientists and architects today announced the foundation of Heavy Metal, or more formally, The River Derwent Heavy Metals Project, with the goal of using their various disciplines to collaboratively study and attempt to clean The Derwent of its legacy of 20th century industry – mercury, lead, cadmium, zinc and copper.

The group of local, national and international artists, architects, scientists, industry members and students includes the University of Tasmania, the Derwent Estuary Program and the UTAS School of Arts based in Hobart; Monash Art Design and Architecture (MADA), Melbourne; the University of Texas, Austin, Texas; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Boston, Massachusetts; with the Alvar Aalto Foundation, Finland and input from the CSIRO.

Project founder Kirsha Kaechele said that while parts of the River around the MONA peninsula and beyond are acknowledged to have some of the most heavily contaminated riverbeds in the world, the group’s focus was on turning a flaw into a feature.

“We are essentially taking a depressing problem with no obvious solution, and turning it into an opportunity for artists, architects and scientists to come together and see what innovative solutions they can create.  Not only will they bring awareness to the problem, and engage the community with interesting and exciting projects, but who knows, they may stumble on a solution that actually works.  So the River becomes a test site for experimental technologies and creative solutions.”  Ms Kaechele said. 

About a year ago, Ms Kaechele said, she learned that her new home was surrounded by toxic sediments, so she sent out a call to various contacts and institutions in the hope of finding a way that MONA could help address the problem.

“The response from everyone I spoke with convinced me that I could bring scientists, artists and architects together and that with David’s generosity, we could start the project.  We understand that it is extremely unlikely we will clean the Derwent in our lifetime, but if the project raises awareness and inspires more people to think about solutions, we will see that as a successful outcome.  I am a big believer in the power of the think tank.  You never know what you might discover when you bring a group of great minds from different disciplines together.”

The first project will be launched at the MoMa Market on January 18, 2014 during MONA FOMA.

The River Derwent Heavy Metal Members:

Dr Catriona Macleod, senior research fellow and deputy program leader – estuaries and coasts program from Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, IMAS UTAS

Christine Coughanowr, program director, Derwent Estuary Program

Dr Ruth Eriksen, research fellow Estuaries and Coasts Program, IMAS UTAS

Ross Brewin, lecturer, with MADA Department of Architecture

Kit Wise, associate professor, with MADA and practising artist, art writer and curator

Dr Peter Davies, adjunct professor University of Tasmania and chair of the National ISRAG Audit Committee, Murray Darling Basin Commission

Dr Lois Koehnken independent consultant on waterway issues

Andy Gamlin, manager, The Wooden Boat Centre, Tasmania

Dr Vicki Gardiner, general manager, Tasmanian division, Engineers Australia

MONA Museum of Old and New Art.