Urbonas Studio’s TRANSmutation (2018-20) at the SCHIRN Kunsthalle in Frankfurt, Germany

Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas. TRANSmutation (2018-20). Mixed media installation: 4 channel video (9:45), lightboxes, rotating space planters; dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artists, with participation of the Lithuanian Museum of Ethnocosmology and The Nature Research Centre Lithuania. Photo: Urbonas Studio ©️ 2020
ACT at MIT

Sept 23, 2020 – Jan 10, 2021
TRANSmutation (2018-20)

Gediminas Urbonas, associate professor MIT
Nomeda Urbonas, MIT research affiliate

TRANSmutation (2018-20) by Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas is on view at the WE NEVER SLEEP exhibition initiated and conceived by Cristina Ricupero and Alexandra Midal, and organized by Katharina Dohm at the SCHIRN Kunsthalle in Frankfurt, Germany.

Conceived as a media installation and a research device the TRANSmutation inquires the borders of double agency of a design of scientific machines. Weaving and collating the layers of Cold war spy films on the biowarfare, photo documents from the classified space botany experiments, custom designed instruments for a bio-experimentation in space missions, and fiction writing on human-plant hybridization, the project constructs a multifaceted, associative and visual interface. It engages with a Pharmakon of a double agency where design of scientific machines and their role in shaping life forms reflects on a fallacies of modernity.

Film excerpts:
Dead Season, dir. S.Kulish (Lenfilm, 1968)
The Flight of Mr.McKinley, dir. M.Schweitzer (Mosfilm, 1975)
Mirage, dir A.Brench (Riga Film Studio, 1986)
The Chase, dir. B. Gostiov (Mosfilm, 1987)

Space planters:
A container for a plant growth in a simulated condition of zero gravity on Earth, 1974.
A model of a container for a plant growth in a simulated condition of zero gravity, 1974
Biogravistat, a centrifuge for plant growth in microgravity, 1979
Biogravistat-1M, a centrifuge for plant growth in space station, 1979
Fiton-2, a micro greenhouse for plant growth in cosmos, 1978
Fiton-3, a micro greenhouse for plant growth in cosmos, 1982
Neris-5, an automatic centrifuge for plant growth in microgravity, 1992
Neris-8, an automatic centrifuge for plant growth in microgravity, 1997

Photo documents:
Centrifuge-clinostat holder with bean shoots. Effects of artificial microgravity, 1972
Container for growing plants under variable gravity conditions, 1972-1974
Container for the study of plant growth and spatial orientation processes in space flight conditions. Soyuz 15 space flight, Salyut 3 space station, 1974.
Container for growing plants under variable gravity conditions. Salyut 4 space station, 1974-1975.
Sections of Arabidopsis thaliana Heinh. Material of the Fiton-3 experiment. Salyut 7 space station, 1982

Special thanks to: Irma Balčiūnienė, Linas Šmigelskas (Lithuanian Museum of Ethnocosmology); Dr. Sigita Jurkonienė, Prof.dr. Sigitas Podėnas (The Nature Research Centre); Dr. Vladas Lašas (UPS Lietuva), Rudolfas Levulis, Paulius Mazūras (pvz.lt)

About exhibition
The SCHIRN is dedicating an international group exhibition to espionage with its power to fascinate, illuminating this theme as a current source of artistic inspiration. Although spies are presented as glamorous in popular culture, the information they obtain from covert campaigns is socially explosive. Espionage is linked to the unauthorized procurement of rare secrets or confidential information. While in the past national governments spied on individuals or states, in times of digital communication private individuals are now able to reveal hidden governmental secrets or whistleblowers can expose governments spying on their own citizens. This has created the perfect grounds for a renewed interest in the mechanisms of secrecy. The exhibition presents works from around 40 international artists, including Simon Denny, Thomas Demand, Stan Douglas, Dora García, Rodney Graham, Gabriel Lester, Jill Magid, Metahaven, Trevor Paglen, Cornelia Schleime, Noam Toran, Suzanne Treister, and Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas. About 70 paintings, photographs, videos, sculptures, and installations address the topic from a contemporary perspective, with the works touching on aspects of espionage like surveillance, paranoia, conspiracy, threat, camouflage, cryptography, manipulation, or propaganda. On view are a multitude of artistic strategies and unexpected objects, exploring the “golden age” of espionage during the Cold War and in the context of media superexposure.

The exhibition was initiated and conceived by Cristina Ricupero and Alexandra Midal and organized by Katharina Dohm at the SCHIRN Kunsthalle in Frankfurt, Germany. Exhibition design by Adrien Rovero

More info:
We Never Sleep: by SCHIRN magazine