Futurity Island: Amphibian Pedagogies and Submerged Perspectives

Futurity Island: Amphibian Pedagogies and Submerged Perspectives

Art, Culture, and Technology Program at MIT

Gediminas & Nomeda Urbonas with Indrė Umbrasaitė, Nicole L’Huillier, Tobias Putrih, Futurity Island, 2018. Commissioned by Blackwood Gallery for The Work of Wind: Air, Land, Sea. PVC pipe, sonification of the soil pollution data, Hydropsyche’s sound. Photo: Yuula Benivolski. Courtesy Blackwood Gallery.

September 20, 2019
Futurity Island: Amphibian Pedagogies and Submerged Perspectives
September 6–October 26, 2019
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
142 Memorial Drive
Walker Memorial—West Lawn
Cambridge Massachusetts
Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Vimeo / #futurityisland

We are disturbing the earth and making it quake.
–Michel Serres, The Natural Contract

The MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology and the Blackwood Gallery of the University of Toronto Mississauga are co-presenting Futurity Island, an infrastructure for interspecies communication.

Futurity Island is an architectural structure conceptualized as a space for acoustic experimentation by Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas in collaboration with Indre Umbrasaite, Nicole L’Huillier, and Tobias Putrih. It serves as an infrastructure that hosts sound compositions and performances and is an open space for learning. With a built-in system of sensors, it translates toxic pollution data into a sonic environment to activate sensory cognition and provide a physical space for an embodied experience of environmental data.

A network of water/sewer pipes, Futurity Island is assembled into an artificial skeleton that channels the sounds of “nature.” As an instrument used to drain swamps, the pipe is a metaphor for human-centered ecology and environmental domination, and a prime symbol of the Anthropocene. Futurity Island appropriates the pipe to bring humans and nonhumans into a more symmetrical, collaborative relationship, aimed at listening to and hearing the silenced voices of our planet. The sonification of environmental research data—the physics of the soil, land, and wind—is in dialogue with the sounds of Hydropsyche, a genus of caddis flies that are amphibious architects and natural sensors of clean water.

Futurity Island builds on the legacy of MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies’ Charles River Project, a program held in the early 1970s aimed at connecting the campus to riparian environmental concerns. In engaging this history, Futurity Island calls for creative solutions for climate-change adaptation, and highlights the challenges and opportunities for future life on and with the water.

Inspired by discussions on radical imagination, Indigenous thought, collective intelligence, and plural ecology, the assembly organized as part of this future learning environment invites participants to discuss and develop new habits of thought for the era of environmental collapse. Futurity Island provides participants with a space to speculate on interspecies ecologies and probe the usefulness of the concept of “sympoiesis,” imagining and working together in radical interdisciplinarity toward desirable futures.

Performances by Sadada Jackson (Nipmuc), Harvard Divinity School, MTS ’19; Nicole L’Huillier (Chile), MIT Media Lab; Erin Genia (Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate), MIT ACT’19

Presentations by Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas, MIT ACT; Christine Shaw, Blackwood Gallery UTM; Etienne Turpin, Berlin; Nicole L’Huillier, MIT Media Lab; Indre Umbrasaite, Die Angewandte; Tobias Putrih, MIT ACT; Glorianna Davenport, Living Observatory; Brian Mayton, MIT Media Lab; Caroline A. Jones, MIT HTC; Macarena Gómez-Barris, Pratt Institute; Eben Kirksey, Alfred Deakin Institute, Melbourne; Brent D. Ryan, MIT DUSP; Lorena Bello Gomez, MIT Architecture

Organized by Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas in collaboration with Christine Shaw

This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology, and the generous donors to the 2018 McDermott Award Gala hosted by the Council for the Arts at MIT, the School of Architecture and Planning, the Blackwood Gallery, the University of Toronto Mississauga, Musket Transport, the Canada Council for the Arts’ New Chapter program, and IPEX.

Futurity Island, 2018 was commissioned by the Blackwood Gallery for The Work of Wind: Air, Land, Sea, curated by Christine Shaw.

Special thanks: Judith Barry, Marion Cunningham, James R. Harrington, Gareth Lichty, Annie Lundsten, Fraser McCallum, Paul J. Murphy III, NODE Berlin Oslo, John Eric Steiner, Graham Yeager, Gary Zhexi Zhang

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September 20, 2019

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