a conceptual framework and a digital tool to create and augment the reality with the imaginaries of the future time, materials and species

The Swamp Observatory. Quagmire is suggested as a model and an instrumentarium for change of perspective, to engage with the planned stormwater ponds in northern Visborg on Gotland island, Sweden.

Swamp Observatory. Quagmire is a commission for the Art in Urban Development Project Visborg that is part of the Public Art Agency’s scheme Art in Urban Development carried out in cooperation between Public Art Agency Sweden, Region Gotland and BAC.

The Swamp Observatory is conceived as a conceptual framework and a digital tool for residents to learn about and observe the habitats that the planned stormwater ponds in Visborg can create and augment the reality with the imaginaries of the future time, materials and species that are yet unknown to us. The purpose of the project has been to develop a methodology for artistic intervention in urban development via environmental pedagogy. The residents will have access to The Swamp Observatory through a digital world via the web and through an app on a mobile device that will sensorially augment the site in Visborg, probing environment as sentient. In the digital world of Observatory, users will be able to access various “instruments” that focus on different parts of the habitat around the stormwater ponds, such as: mud, insects, fungi or amphibians. The users will explore the relationships between species and their roles in the local ecosystem, while being immersed in observing, listening, moving through the landscape, and employing of other senses. Exploration of pragmatic and also fictional exchanges between species and their milieu would probe a vision about the future of local environment and possible climate commons.

By developing and using Augmented Reality technology, the artists propose a new model for art in public space that engages communities and facilitates their sensorial engagement with the site before the planning process has physically affected the city.

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.

Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas. Swamp Observatory. Quagmire. 2021
Conceptual sketch for AR environment. Drawings by the students of Athene school. 3D modeling in collaboration with Indrė Umbrasaitė. AR solutions by Steven Bachelder.

The project has developed a digital prototype where the artists have focused on the instrument that inquires with the symbiotic relations in the swamp – The Quagmire. This instrument traces the energy cycles that are created by geochemical exchanges in the air, water and sediments including soil, clay and mud, and the life forms that emerge through the creation of the stormwater ponds. If carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen, and sulfur determine life forms it is interesting what live forms could be found behind those known to science energy circuits. Could the Quagmire instrument help us to envision the exchanges beyond the known and speculate on the shadow biosphere? The prototype has been developed in collaboration with the sixth graders and their teachers at Atheneskolan, who during their art classes have contributed to creating characters that will cohabit the digital “Quagmire world”.

Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas. Swamp Observatory. Quagmire. 2021
A map of the Quagmire characters. Drawing and scripting workshop with the students of Athene school.