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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 advocates for the reclamation of public space, stimulating cultural and political imagination as tools for social change. 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.
Recent work includes Uto-Pia (commission for European Capital of Culture, 2011), a research project working with experimental media and communication techniques to map heterotopias of dysfunctional infrastructures, and to address and respond to the environmental damage left by the industrial and military interventions in the Turku archipelago of the Baltic Sea. River Runs, with Oxford Brookes University (UK), investigated the riparian territory of the river culture and initiated new dialogues which examined past, present and future interventions to the Charles River and its biosphere, and developed models for river structures that link it to citizenship, quality of life or artistic fiction through a residency and project along the Thames River. (Modern Art Oxford Museum, 2012.) (In)dependent People is a project for the Reykjavík Arts Festival to investigate collaborations, artists initiatives, and the illusive territory around authorship. Including collaborations with local communities in Reykjavík, and with students in a studio-based course, it culminated in a tactical media project linked to local Cold War sites. (Icelandic National Art Museum and Reykjavik City Art Museum, 2012.)
Urbonas’ socially engaged and technology based practice has been exhibited at the San Paulo, Berlin, Moscow, Lyon and Gwangju Biennales; the Manifesta and Documenta exhibitions; and solo shows at the Venice Biennale and MACBA in Barcelona. Their work was awarded the Lithuanian National Prize (2007), Prize for the Best International Artist at the Gwangju Biennale (2006), a fellowship at the Montalvo Arts Center in California (2007/08), nominated for the Nam June Paik Award (2012), and the Special Prize for the best national pavilion at the Venice Biennale (2007).
Urbonas is also co-founder of the Transaction Archive and co-director of the Pro-test Lab Archive. His writing on artistic research as a form of intervention in social and political crisis was published in the books Devices for Action (2008) by MACBA Press, and Barcelona and Villa Lituania (2008) by Sternberg Press. Their book on river cultures is in preparation by Modern Art Oxford (forthcoming, 2013) and they are currently working on a large scale installation related to heavy metals in the Derwent River at the Museum of Old and New Art.
In spring 2014, in collaboration with Antoni Muntadas, he organized a Symposium on Public Space.