The Swamp School and The Swamp Observatory
2018 Mellon Faculty Grant & 2022 International Exhibition Grant
Imaginative ecosystems and explorations of non-material architecture
About the Project
The Swamp Observatory, supported by a CAST International Exhibition and Performance Fund Grant
The Swamp Observatory is an experimental form of public art that engages the community in environmental pedagogy and probes new perspectives in urban planning. The project uses AR to unveil imaginative ecosystems of planned stormwater ponds in a future city district of Visby, Sweden. The stormwater ponds land in the middle of the debate on environmental sustainability and constitute a model for how to reintroduce wetlands on Gotland island in the Baltic Sea (arguably the most polluted sea in the world), where water shortage is already a condition of daily life. The AR app enables community members to experience a future in the making and to practice adaptive technologies in support of community resiliency at a local level.
The Swamp Observatory builds on the network of a fictional society—The Society of Forgotten Futures—that is an assembly of experts who have contributed their local knowledges of flora and fauna, history, and mythology to the visualization of the digital instruments.
This hybrid reality project proposes a new model for public art that sensorially engages communities and facilitates their bonds with the environment. The Swamp Observatory supports environmental citizenship in Visborg through a new climate commons created and maintained by local stakeholders and users.
The Swamp School, supported by a CAST Mellon Faculty Grant
For the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale, Gediminas and Nomeda Urbonas curated the Swamp Pavilion, representing their native Lithuania. The Swamp Pavilion was a networked effort to create new imaginary spaces for exercises in architectural and artistic practices, theory, and pedagogy through public interventions, field trips, workshops, lectures, discussions, and printed publications.
The Swamp Pavilion hosted the Swamp School, which focused on future learning environments, informed by and informing the architecture and installations within it. The Swamp School comprised three chapters: Swamp Radio: On transmitting; Futurity Island: On sympoietics; and Commonism: On cohabitation.
In a time marked by existential threats of war and climate change, the Swamp School set up a cross-disciplinary dialogue to challenge conventional concepts of territory. It aimed to reorganize identities and realities, and to envision the role of the immaterial in architecture, art, and nature.
More at the project website: The Swamp
The Swamp Observatory features in multiple upcoming exhibitions and presentations:
Eco-Vision Plan, CAFA museum, Beijing, China, 2023
State of the Arts, Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, DC, 2023
Urbonas Studio Retrospective, National Gallery, Lithuania, 2023
The Swamp Observatory AR Application Launch
Part of Out of the Sky, into the Earth Exhibition
August 27 – September 11, 2022
Gotland Art Museum and Visborg Field
Curated by Edi Muka, curator at Public Art Agency Sweden, in collaboration with Helena Selder, artistic director of Baltic Art Center.
The Swamp Pavilion at the 2018 Venice Biennale
Commonism: On cohabitation
September 24-29, 2018
Futurity Island: On symbio-poetics
June 26-30, 2018
Swamp Radio: On transmitting
May 23-27, 2018
The Swamp Observatory
The Swamp Observatory is part of the Region of Gotland’s Art in Urban Development Project Visborg led by the Baltic Art Center in collaboration with Public Art Agency Sweden. Supported by the Baltic Art Center (BAC), the Lithuanian Council for Culture, and the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST).
A project by Urbonas Studio: Gediminas Urbonas & Nomeda Urbonas
Conceptual drawings by students from Athene School, Atheneskolan, Visby
3D modeling: Indrė Umbrasaitė
AR development: Steven Bachelder
The Swamp School
The Lithuanian pavilion at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia was commissioned by Pippo Ciorra, produced by the Architecture Fund and presented by the Lithuanian Council for Culture with support from the MIT School of Architecture and Planning, MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology, MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST), and the Nordic Culture Fund, OCA – Office for Contemporary Art Norway.
View the full Swamp Pavilion team on the project website: The Swamp
About the Artists
Gediminas Urbonas is an artist, educator, researcher and co-founder of US: Urbonas Studio (together with Nomeda Urbonas), an interdisciplinary research practice that facilitates exchange amongst diverse nodes of knowledge production and artistic practice in pursuit of projects that transform civic spaces and collective imaginaries. Urbonas also collaborate with experts in different cultural fields to develop practice-based artistic research models that allow participants – including their students – to pursue projects that merge urbanism, new media, social sciences and pedagogy to critically address the transformation of civic space and ecology.
Biography: Gediminas Urbonas
Website: Urbonas Studio
In the Media
Ord&Bild: The Swamp Observatory, January 2023 (in Swedish)
Archinect: The Venice Biennale Swamp Pavilion, Part I: Swamp Radio
Archinect: The Venice Biennale Swamp Pavilion, Part II: Futurity Island
e-flux Architecture: The Swamp School
e-flux Architecture: Commonism at The Swamp School
Artribune: The Swamp Pavilion. L’esordio della Lituania alla Biennale di Architettura di Venezia
Art in America: Other Voices, Other Worlds
MIT News: MIT returns to the Venice Biennale