Urbonas Studio: The Learning Machine

The Learning Machine is a new work by The Urbonas Studio, a joint effort of Gediminas Urbonas, Associate Professor in SA+P’s Art, Culture + Technology Program, and his partner Nomeda, with whom he has worked in joint artistic practice since 1997.

Together, the artists have established an international reputation for their investigations into how a society adapts to the sudden change from one governmental system to another. The Learning Machine combines two previous works, Transaction (2000-2005) and Ruta Remake (2002-2005), that explore the roles of women in Lithuania, a society making the transition from Soviet control to post-Soviet liberalism.

On view in the exhibition:

  • archival footage from Lithuanian films from 1947 - 1997, featuring stereotypical women's roles in Soviet-era cinema (mother, innocent girl, siren, witch)
  • recordings of prominent Lithuanian psychiatrists discussing Lithuanian cinematic portraits of women in the context of transactional analysis
  • an interactive musical instrument, the Theremidi: by moving their hands over the Theremidi table and creating shadows that pass over sensors embedded in it, visitors create a soundscape in the gallery from an archive of women's voices sampled from Lithuanian media

The structure of the interactive voice archive is ‘woven’ in the pattern of the ruta (rue) plant. The pattern appears in a woven curtain that blocks ambient light in the gallery to create stronger shadows for playing the Theremidi, and it appears in a line of unisex clothing also on view.

In addition to the Documenta 11 exhibition in Germany, Urbonas Studio has exhibited at the Sao Paulo, Berlin, Moscow and Gwangju Biennales, among numerous other international exhibitions, including a solo show at the Venice Biennale and MACBA in Barcelona.