Freshkills Park Blog

Mel Chin’s ‘Revival Field’

Vulgare recently highlighted artist Mel Chin’s Revival Field: Projection & Procedure (1990-1993), a 60 square foot phytoremedation test plot at the Pig’s Eye Landfill in St. Paul, Minnesota. While in residence at the Walker Art Center, Chin worked with scientists at the USDA to design gardens of hyperaccumulators—plants that can uptake heavy metals from contaminated soil (at Pig’s Eye, the soil was contaminated with cadmium, zinc and lead).

Chin designed a circular field with replicated plantings to analyze the use of six hyperaccumulator and metal-tolerant plants and a variety of soil treatments. Two main walkways divided the field like the crosshair of a rifle scope, symbolizing a targeting of the earth for cleanup. The Minnesota field trial was active from 1990 to 1993. It showed that Alpine pennycress was best at taking in heavy metals, although neither it nor any of the other plants took in metals fast enough to achieve significant cleansing in 3 years.

At present, artists working together with scientists, even on phytoremediation-based projects, is not uncommon.  But in the early 1990s, it was relatively new art practice and grew not just out of scientific interest, but conceptual fascination.  The project, said Chin, “relates to my interest in alchemy and my understanding of transformative processes and the mutable nature of materials. The contaminated soil is transformed back into rich earth, capable of sustaining a diverse ecosystem.”  More media and interviews about the project are available through Art21.

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April 14, 2011 - Posted by | FKP | , ,


  1. hello – an interesting post. I am writing to ask your permission to reproduce your above image on a blog post I am about to write. It is a short general post about environmental art – focused around Mel Chin. I will acknowledge you as source of course.
    Thanks very much
    Linda Gordon.

    Comment by throughstones | November 7, 2011 | Reply

    • Hi Linda, we are not the authors of the image we have posted–follow the link to Vulgare to trace back authorship if you want to seek permissions. Good luck!

      Comment by freshkillspark | November 7, 2011 | Reply

  2. hi i wold like to know what kind of plants they used

    Comment by Laura Palma | January 8, 2014 | Reply

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