Druzba, Oil and Peat
Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas will talk about their investigation into sites of extraction and artistic engagement with infrastructure. They will discuss the Druzhba project, which was their contribution to The Baltic Pavilion at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale, and the Swamp School, developed for the Lithuanian presence at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale. Starting with the Druzhba research project, the artists will explore the cultural, political, and geographical territories that unfold in a fictional journey along the world’s longest oil pipeline which connects Siberian oil fields with Europe. The project’s psycho-geographic readings of this massive infrastructure reveal mechanisms of power and submission that should belong to the colonial past but are very present today.
Launched in 2003, Urbonas’ Druzhba project uses interviews, videos and archival materials to weave together narrative threads that investigate the apparatus of the Druzhba pipeline and the ambiguous exchanges between economics and culture that it exemplifies. The research follows the flows and energies produced by a disintegrating infrastructure of power and links the story of the Druzhba pipeline to personal anxiety and the idea of friendship.
Continuing their inquiry into the infrastructures of extraction, Urbonas developed ‘the Swamp’ research, which argues that architecture must embrace the swamp, with its hybridity, complexity, queerness, and paradox, as a way to decolonize and de-school itself. Focusing on The Swamp School, a self-organised, open-ended and ever-changing infrastructure that supports collaborative experiments in design, pedagogy, and artistic intelligence, Urbonas will discuss the programmatic concepts that drive the epigenetic landscape of a swamp. Drawing on the Amphibian Pedagogy as a method of artistic practice that cannibalises architecture and facilitates new hybrid forms, the artists will discuss examples of hybrid practice that navigate the emergent knowledge and “landing on Earth.”
Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas are artists, educators, researchers and co-founders of the Urbonas Studio, 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.They also collaborate with experts in different 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.
Urbonas have exhibited internationally including the São Paulo, Berlin, Moscow, Lyon, Gwangju, Busan, Taipei Biennales, Folkestone Triennial – and Manifesta and Documenta exhibitions – among other international exhibitions, including a solo show at the Venice Biennale and MACBA in Barcelona. Their work was awarded a number of high level grants and residency awards, including the Lithuanian National Prize (2007); a Prize for the Best International Artist at the Gwangju Biennale (2006) and the Prize for the best national pavilion at the Venice Biennale (2007). Their writing on artistic research as form of intervention into social and political crisis was published in the books Devices for Action (2008) by MACBA Press, Barcelona and Villa Lituania (2008) by Sternberg Press, and their co-edited volume Public Space? Lost and Found (MIT Press, 2017). Urbonas 5 year-long research project on Zooetics exploring the potential to connect with the noetics and poetics of non-human life in the context of the planetary ecological imbalance, concluded in 2018 with the symposium at MIT and opened a new research program – MIT Climate Visions. Urbonases curated the Swamp School – future learning environment at the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale 2018. The book Swamps and the New Imagination: On the Future of Cohabitation in Art, Architecture and Philosophy published by Sternberg Press and distributed by MIT Press, is forthcoming in 2022.
Urbonas taught and lectured extensively internationally. Full-time teaching positions include NTNU – Norwegian University for Science and Technology (2005-2009). Gediminas Urbonas is Associate Professor at MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Nomeda Urbonas is research affiliate at MIT. Urbonas both are Visiting Professors at VDU - Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas, at CAFA - Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing, at NABA - Nuova Accademia di Belle Arte in Milano and also Associate Faculty at the Dartington Arts School in Dartington, UK.