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The Swamp School

Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas

One quarter of Lithuania’s territory consists of swamps and wetlands. These lands represent the ethno-cultural identity of the various regions, and pedagogues have long stressed the relationship between ethnic culture and ecology. It is common in ancient myths to consider water a sacred element for positive spiritual activity, but with potential for evil. In local folklore the devil lives in swamps and marshes. The protagonist in the popular 1945 novel Baltaragio Malūnas by Kazys Boruta is the devil who lives in a swamp. The novel, written during the Nazi occupation of Lithuania is about struggle with one’s own fate.
Curators Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas have brilliantly resurrected their heritage and boldly challenged the world to rethink cohabitation between humans and other forms of life. More than fifteen tons of Lithuanian swamps were dug up and replanted in Venice for The Swamp School, the first Lithuanian pavilion created for the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale 2018. The Swamp School consists of intense interdisciplinary research in acoustics, “The Swamp Radio,” and environmental protection, “Futurity Island,” as well as a laboratory to explore dialogue among different life forms, “Commonism.” Sensory experiences were highlighted as was the concept of invisible architecture. An impressive list of international contributors supported a series of public interfaces and pedagogical workshops in socially engaged design. The goal of The Swamp School is to apply the complexity of swamps to imagine a viable future in today’s over-developed planet beset by perpetual threats.

Milda B. Richardson

Volume 33 no 2 November / December 2018 p 25

Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas, curators, Pippo Ciorra, commissioner, Produced by the Architecture Fund, Presented by The Lithuanian Council for Culture, Venue: Giardino Bianco art Space (Castello, Viale Garibaldi 1815), www.swamp.it, E-mail: media@swamp.it.

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