a hybrid artistic-scientific instrument that presents swamp as interface to Gaia

Two from four of the Swamp Observatory instruments are on display at the SERENISSIMA EAST – an international contemporary art exhibition, curated by Krzysztof Stanisławski and Arvydas Žalpys at the Centre for Contemporary Art Znaki Czasu in Toruń, Poland.

The title of the exhibition refers to Serenissima, or the Most Serene, that was the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, but also the Republic of Venice. More: on the SERENISSIMA EAST

The Swamp Observatory installation plays with the idea of the return of the swamp. Two figures presented at the SERENISSIMA EAST are made of peat—decomposed and carbonized vegetation and organic matter found in peat bogs. As an altered sensorial organism, the installation acts beyond exclusive human control.

Olfactory Crevasse is a lung-shaped entity suspended from the ceiling. Forming several cavities that visitors can explore with their sense of smell, it provides an opportunity to discover mischievous scents that simultaneously allure and repel, which were created with smell researchers.

The Time Stack consists of seven layers of memory that mark seven millennia of Lithuanian peatlands. Peat bogs are the archives of Earth: in their anaerobic medium they perfectly preserve spores, pollen, insects, plants, and even human bodies. Just as peat is a keeper of environmental information, so does the Time Stack open up layers of shared planetary memory.

The Swamp Observatory (2020):
Concept: Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas, architecture: Indrė Umbrasaitė, fabrication: Rytis Urbanskas, Simona Kačinskaitė, research: Nikola Bojić, processing programming: Thomas Sanchez Lengeling, AI module: Jonas Kubilius, smell: Jurga Katakinaitė-Jakubauskienė and Reda Valentinavičienė, producer: MIT Climate Visions, scientific advisors: Jūratė Sendžikaitė, Vesta Aleknavičiūtė, Onutė Grigaitė. Special thanks: Gintaras Rapkauskas, Sigita Kantautienė, Remigijus Daubaras.

The Swamp Observatory (2020) was commissioned by ZKM for the  Critical Zones – Observatories for Earthly Politics, curated by Peter Weibel and Bruno Latour with Martin Guinard. Supported by Arts at MIT and Philip Khoury, Associate Provost for the Arts, UAB Durpeta.

Photo: Wojtek Szabelski