“Swamp Radio Wireless” at Ars Electronica

PHOTO-2018-09-06-02-51-05
ACT at MIT

In early September, ACT Lecturers Rasa Smite and Raitis Smits exhibited their “Swamp Radio Wireless” at the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, Austria. The international festival, founded in 1979, focuses on, “current developments and possible future scenarios at the nexus of art, technology and society.”  “Swamp Radio Wireless” is an extension of work by Smite and Smits that ACT presented at the MIT Center for Theoretical Physics in spring 2018, as part of the CAVS 50th anniversary events. Related work was subsequently exhibited at The Swamp School at the Venice Biennale of Architecture, where their “Biotricity. Swamp Radio Lab” remains on view until November 25, 2018. Currently, “Swamp Radio” is also on view in the Eco-Visionaries exhibition in House of Electronic Arts in Basel Switzerland, where the work includes an outdoor performance and a VR environment.

Swamp Radio takes on the challenge of giving voice to the unheard and invisible. The world’s swamps, vast and ancient ecosystems covering about 5 percent of the earth’s surface, are like time-capsules. Yet they provide essential ecological services for modern society.

Smite and Smits, in their recent work, have been installing microbial fuel cells, environmental sensors and data transmission networks to explore the sonic environment of bogs near Riga, Latvia, marshlands near Boston, and wetlands in Venice, Italy. The environmental data are interpreted in real-time audiovisual environments that sonify and visualize the fluctuation of bacterial electricity generation, and artistically interpret data from the environmental monitoring. During the Ars Electronica festival, data from the local biotope, and ecosystem monitoring on the roof of the festival building, were transmitted live in the exhibition space via LoRa radio technology, which allows long-range transmission of digital data using very low levels of energy. Energy for the transmissions was provided in the exhibition by mud-charged bio-batteries, shown here.

Credits: Nicole L’Huillier/ MIT Media Lab; Gary Zhexi Zhang / MIT ACT; Kristaps Biters / RIXC: Dr. Reinholds Zviedris/ University of Latvia; Support: RIXC,RISK CHANGE – Creative Europe Program of the European Union, MIT ACT, and Swamp School at the Venice Architecture Biennale.