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The Swamp Observatory: an instrumentarium for change of perspective

The Swamp Observatory is the continuation of a proposal developed by Urbonas Studio (Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas) as part of New Perspectives Visborg, an urban development project carried out in collaboration with PAAS, BAC and Region Gotland. The project focuses on the plans for the development of storm-water ponds in northern Visborg.
The artists have created a conceptual frame and a digital tool in the form of an app that inhabitants and visitors can use to observe and imagine new species or habitats that the future ponds can bring to life. For many years the artists have worked with the wetland as both, a biological concept and as environment. They see it as a model of coexistence between all the life forms that inhabit it, that we humans can learn from.

With the Augmented Reality technique, the future reality of the Visborg fields is enriched with imaginary, yet unknown species – or monsters, as the artists prefer to call them – that have been created together with pupils from the Athene school. The surrounding environment is conceptually composed of five larger scenes with themes of carbon, sulphur, methane, nuclear and phosphorus. In the AR experience, the monsters flock around the scenes along the route. The user / explorer can search for and follow them in their hiding places around imaginary ponds, while being led to discover short stories and engage in experiences as they unfold through sounds and monster’s messages.

The Swamp Observatory’s digital instrument is built on participation and co-creation processes. It is a playful and pedagogical tool to engage with complex urban development processes and to imagine new and sustainable ”social biotopes”. The project inspires thoughts about the importance of the lost wetlands of Gotland and their recovery in a time of global climate change.

The artists will present their creative process and launch the app The Swamp Observatory as part of the exhibition Out of the Sky, into the Earth at the Gotland Art Museum and in the Visborg field August 27th – September 11th.

Urbonas Studio was founded by artists and educators Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Vilnius, Lithuania. Urbonas Studio is 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 are researching and teaching at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA.

Seagrasseassador by Tyra is an ancestor of octopus. Emerging from the fossil she helps to circulate methane in the swamp and lives in symbiosis with Cocomolko bacteria by Poppy that thrives on carbon dioxide.
Mushroom by Sam is hallucinogenic plant that pretends to be a mushroom. It emerges like a will of a wisp to allure flies deeper into the Quagmire.
Friendly Spirillum by Nathalie flies in spirals, feeds on water bacteria and communicates with plants to make them grow better.
Seagrasseassador by Tyra is an ancestor of octopus. Emerging from the fossil she helps to circulate methane in the swamp and lives in symbiosis with Cocomolko bacteria by Poppy that thrives on carbon dioxide.
A Creepy face by Julie is a mineral that indicates humidity level in the swamp. It shines and floats around when it’s wet and sits dark and grumpy when the swamp is thirsty.
Flying Pineapple by Noah is a bio-destructor that thrives on sulfur and makes enzyme to break down the plastic. Everybody in the Quagmire adores the smell and taste of Pineapple.
Mushroom by Sam is hallucinogenic plant that pretends to be a mushroom. It emerges like a will of a wisp to allure flies deeper into the Quagmire.
Friendly Spirillum by Nathalie flies in spirals, feeds on water bacteria and communicates with plants to make them grow better.
A Creepy face by Julie is a mineral that indicates humidity level in the swamp. It shines and floats around when it’s wet and sits dark and grumpy when the swamp is thirsty.


A map of the Quagmire characters. Drawing and scripting workshop with the students of Athene school.

Urbonas Studio. The Swamp Observatory. 2021.
Conceptual sketches for AR environment. Drawings by the students of Athene school. 3D modeling in collaboration with Indrė Umbrasaitė. AR solution by Steven Bachelder

Collaboration

The project is curated by Edi Muka, curator at Public Art Agency Sweden, in collaboration with Helena Selder, artistic director of BAC.

Links

Out of the Sky, into the Earth project page

New Perspectives Visborg project page

Public Art Agency Sweden

Region Gotland

Urbonas Studio

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