An article about Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas’ Partially Swamped Institution, a mid-career retrospective exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Vilnius, was recently featured in Artforum.

From the article by Inga Lāce:

In “Partially Swamped Institution,” the National Gallery of Art in Vilnius restaged major artworks by Lithuanian artist couple Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas, who are now based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Vilnius. The show also presented some of the pair’s earliest pieces, which date back to the region’s post-Soviet transition period, displaying documentation of these works on transparent sheets on overhead projectors. This device, so familiar from schoolrooms of the past, also invited participation; visitors could select the sheets they wanted to see.

School is of special importance to the Urbonases. Much of their practice revolves around education, a subject they approach with a spirit of lightness, play, and interdisciplinary collaboration. For example, The Swamp School, 2018, Lithuania’s entry in the 16th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice, brought together more than two hundred designers, scholars, and researchers from diverse disciplines to “learn from the swamp.” Swamps—wetlands, transitional zones between land and water—have historically been considered dangerous, unstable, and ugly. From a modernizing point of view, a swamp is something to be drained. In the Soviet period, the authorities emptied wetlands to make more land for agriculture. Today, swamps are recognized as reservoirs of rich biodiversity that regulate ecosystems. They provide protection against both flooding and drought and are a venue for messy yet fruitful relationships between humans and nonhumans.

The Vilnius presentation included videos, installations, and a work consisting of natural linen printed with a collage of images and laid out on a wooden structure. These come from manifold sources, including history, pop culture, cinema, and fantasy literature, such as a visual interpretation of the otak creature from Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea cycle or a screenshot from the “One Piece” anime series referring to a fruit that allows one to transform into “swamp” with a caption reading, IT’S A MUDDY SWAMP THAT YOU CAN’T ESCAPE!

Read the full article here.