The Swamp Observatory is the continuation of a proposal developed by Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas as part of New Perspectives Visborg, an urban development collaboration project between Public Art Agency Sweden, Baltic Art Center 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 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.
Through the use of 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, sulfur, methane, nuclear and phosphorus. In the AR experience, the monsters flock around the scenes along the route. The user / explorer can search and follow the monsters hiding around imaginary ponds, while being seduced to discover short stories and engage in experiences as they unfold through sounds and monster’s messages.
The storm-water ponds and their function inspire thoughts about recovery and the importance of the lost wetlands of Gotland, in a time of global climate change. The Swamp Observatory’s digital instrument is built on participation and co-creation processes, providing a foundation for dialogue on sustainability issues in city planning from the perspective of the citizens both young and old.
About the artists
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.