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Gediminas Urbonas is an associate professor in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Department of Architecture, and co-founder with Nomeda Urbonas of Urbonas Studio, 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. Combining new and old media, their work frequently involves collective activities contributing to the cross-disciplinary exchange between several nodes of knowledge production: network and participatory technologies; sensorial media and public space; environmental remediation design and spatial organization; and alternative planning design integration. They also collaborate with experts in different cultural fields to develop practice-based artistic research models that allow participants—including their students—to pursue projects that merge urbanism, new media, social sciences and pedagogy to critically address the transformation of civic space and ecology.
Recent work includes The Swamp School, a curatorial commission for the 16th International Architecture Exhibition—La Biennale di Venezia, 2018. The project investigates hybridity and immateriality of architectural forms, reimagining our relationships with the environment and the territories in a post-nation and post-human turn. Futurity Island, developed with University of Toronto Mississauga (Canada), an immersive installation that inquires sensorial experience of the environmental pollution data to address the structures—historical, metaphoric, and narrative—that govern our climate futures. With its public program series it expands perspective on climate change through artistic practice, cultural inquiry, and political mobilization. (Funded with the support from Blackwood Gallery, UTM, 2018; and NEA and MIT, 2019). Urbonas 5 year-long research project on Zooetics exploring the potential to connect with the noetics and poetics of non-human life in the context of the planetary ecological imbalance, concluded in 2018 with the symposium at MIT. Developed as series of educational events for the Frontiers in Retreat (EU), project that broadens the understanding of global ecological changes and their local impacts on European natural environments by means of contemporary artistic practices and through a multidisciplinary approach. Frontiers in Retreat responds to an urgency to redefine relationships with environments that are decreasing in permanent habitation while at the same time facing increasing attention for various ecological and economic reasons. (Funded with support from the EU Culture Programme for the years 2013–2018.)
Urbonas socially engaged and technology based practice has been exhibited internationally including the São Paulo (twice), Berlin, Moscow (twice), Lyon, Gwangju, Busan Biennales, Folkestone Triennial – and Manifesta and Documenta exhibitions – among numerous other international shows, including a solo show at the Venice Biennale and MACBA in Barcelona. Their work was awarded a number of high level grants and residency awards, including the Lithuanian National Prize (2007); a Prize for the Best International Artist at the Gwangju Biennale (2006) and the Special Prize for the best national pavilion at the Venice Biennale (2007).
Urbonas is also a co-founder of the JUTEMPUS interdisciplinary art program (1993), the first independent artist-led initiative in Lithuania; Vilnius Interdisciplinary Lab for Media Art (VILMA); the VOICE, a net based publication on media culture (www.balsas.cc); he is a co-founder of the Transaction Archive and co-directors of the Pro-test Lab Archive. His writing on artistic research as form of intervention into social and political crisis was published in the books Devices for Action (2008) by MACBA Press, Barcelona and Villa Lituania (2008) by Sternberg Press. Urbonas co-edited Public Space? Lost and Found (MIT Press, 2017) that brings together artists, planners, theorists and art historians in an examination of the complex inter-relations between the creation and uses of public space and the roles that public art plays therein. The edited volume Swamps and the New Imagination:
On the Future of Cohabitation in Art, Architecture, and Philosophy (MIT Press, 2020), invites contributors to consider the vital urgency of human cohabitation with other forms of life, beginning a dialogue with possible futures. Urbonas is a PI on the CAVS Special Collection, that documents a 50 year history of collaborative and time-based productions generated by the tenure of over 200 internationally recognized artist-fellows working at MIT since 1968. The collection includes photographs, books, posters, documents, portfolios, films, videos, and audiotapes of historical significance pertaining to the intersection of art, science, and experimental technologies.
In spring 2014, in collaboration with Antoni Muntadas, he organized a Symposium on Public Space at MIT. In spring 2018, in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the renowned Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT, he organised The Zooetics+ Symposium that concluded a 5 year-long research project, A___Zooetics, that opened a new research program focusing on sympoiesis.