I was invited as an ‘interlocutor’ and artist in “Swamp Radio” at the Swamp Pavilion during the opening week of the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennial. The Speaker Tower was deployed to amplify the sounds of the Venetian swamp at dawn. Curated by Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas, the Swamp Radio seeked to engage participants in “acoustic space explorations, radio experiments, environmental sound recordings, immersiveness of sound, and data sonification.”
Led by composer Jana Winderen, a group of artists and workshop participants arrived at dawn on the day of the official inauguration of the Venice Biennial to the Venetian wetlands. Equipped with sound recorders, parabolic microphones, hydrophones and a pair of ears, each participant engaged with the awakening landscape in unique ways. Little crabs started to rise from the brooks that traversed the swamp. One mounted my hydrophone and did not let go for almost one hour. The crab's "voice" consisted of tiny bubbles that the hydrophone captured as they popped. In reality, the crab was blowing bubbles to keep oxygen flowing to its gills.
Three days later, the acoustic portrait of the Venetian wetlands was played on the Speaker Tower for an audience gathered at the Swamp School. As we listened to the recordings of birds chirping, insects buzzing and crabs breathing, we realized that they little crab did not only provide oxygen to its gills, but also to the rest of the Venetian Lagoon, prompting a reflection on the current context of environmental destruction and climate crisis.
After opening week, the doors of the Swamp Pavilion were opened to the public. The Speaker Tower was installed at the center of the main space of the pavilion, surrounded by the school’s pipe furniture, representing artificial draining technologies, a natural enemy of the swamp. Upon entering, visitors discovered an atmosphere with the voice of the land, perhaps demanding recognition, perhaps crying for survival.
Photos: NKA / Norbert Tukaj.
Acknowledgments: Gediminas Urbonas, Nomeda Urbonas, Rasa Smite, Nicole L'Huillier, Jana Winderen, Jan Moss, Sam Auinger, Petteri Nissunen, Tommi Grönlund, Erin Genia, Chelsea Bruck, Norbert Tukaj.