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Project Regeneration

Photo: ONF
Project Regeneration
  • Project Regeneration
  • Project Regeneration

Plants have the ability to clean soil and bring it back to life, a phenomenon known as phytoremediation.

Regeneration is the product of an art-meets-science collaboration. It is a contemporary digital artwork in progress that documents in real time the phytoremediation of an area of land near the Jardin botanique. Through a light and sound installation, visitors can witness in a fascinating way data collected by cameras and sensors.

Art brings to life the invisible yet vital work of plants.


Outside, north of the Jardin botanique, a showcase for phytoremediation was created on a plot of land. The soil contains relatively low levels of contaminants, including trace elements of metals. Sensors were installed to monitor the plants’ decontamination work. These sensors are connected to an installation at the Biodiversity Centre.

Sensors and data

Some of the signs that the land is regenerating, as more plant species grow, include healthy alder trees, exchanges of gas between land and air, and the amount of moisture in the soil.

A set of sensors continuously monitors the land’s evolution, while others record weather conditions and the passage of time. We can quantify the neutralization of contaminants through random analyses of soil samples. We have observed a resurgence of biodiversity through the return of butterflies, bees, earthworms, birds and small mammals.

The data collected, which serves as scientific research and artistic creation, is the foundation of the artwork. It offers an impressionist interpretation of the regeneration of the soil in that area.

Plant community

Flowering plants, grasses and willows form a living community that works closely together to purify the soil. Pollutants, absorbed through the roots, can make their way up through the stems and leaves. Come fall, the vegetation will be cut and destroyed in a safe manner. Summer after summer, the plant community thrives with the appearance of spontaneous (natural) vegetation, embellishing the landscape while creating a more pleasant environment.

At the crossroads of art and science

The piece was created through a close collaboration among artists Alexandre Burton and Mélanie Crespin, and Jardin botanique researcher Joan Laur. The artistic installation includes a mobile made from bioplastic products derived from material collected at the plot. The lighting is modulated based on the digital data, which is presented on a screen and brought to life in two ways: “live” in which data is displayed and updated in real time; and “cyclical” where archived data is accelerated, showing a time-lapse-up view of the very slow evolutionary process.

The project is a coproduction of Espace pour la vie and the National Film Board of Canada.

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