The Druzhba project is an installation that explores the cultural, political and geographical territories that unfold in a fictional journey along the world’s longest crude oil pipeline, stretching 4,000 kilometres from Siberia, through the Baltic States and into Eastern and Central Europe. The name Druzhba means ‘friendship’ in Russian, and the pipeline is a master signifier, a grand-narrating imperial structure meant, at its inception in 1960, to ‘lead the world into a new dawn’. The project’s psycho-geographic readings reveal mechanisms of power and submission that rightfully belong to the past but persist even today.
During the Soviet times, the Druzhba pipeline represented the immense machinery of infrastructure and capital, ideology and sentiments, labour and leisure, and was meant to tie together regions that were under intense political pressure and mutual suspicion through the idea of friendship. As the Soviet Union collapsed, the newly founded companies of the former Eastern bloc began to use their old networks of influence to steal from the oil-rich fields of Siberia and the Ural region. The privatisation of the pipeline infrastructure was seen as a symbol of the new liberal and democracy-oriented political direction. Power and colonisation had moved from one compass point to another.
The Druzhba project is an archive of the Druzhba pipeline’s metabolism. We know of the pipeline from images of maps that show its branching, media reports celebrating its new instalments, proposed expansions, refinery openings and closings, pumping stations and oil industry settlements. This evidence connects narrative threads about the Druzhba pipeline and the ambiguous areas of exchange between economics and culture. The installation highlights the flows and energies produced by a disintegrating infrastructure of power and links the distorted and pressurised story of the Druzhba pipeline to personal anxiety and the idea of friendship.
Graphic design in collaboration with Gaile Pranckūnaitė and Marek Voida (2018).
Architecture in collaboration with Jurga Daubaraitė and Jonas Žukauskas.
Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas are artists, educators and co-founders of Urbonas Studio, an interdisciplinary research practice that facilitates exchange amongst diverse nodes of knowledge production and artistic practice in pursuit of projects that transform civic spaces and collective imaginaries. They have exhibited internationally including in São Paulo, Berlin, Moscow, Lyon, Gwangju, Busan and Taipei Biennales, Folkestone
Triennial, Manifesta and Documenta exhibitions, as well as in solo shows at the Venice Biennale and MACBA in Barcelona. Their writing on artistic research as a form of intervention was published in the books Devices for Action (2008), Villa Lituania (2008), and Public Space? Lost and Found (2017). The duo curated the Swamp School at the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale in 2018. They have also edited the book Swamps and the New Imagination: On the Future of Cohabitation in Art, Architecture and Philosophy which will be released in 2023 (Sternberg, MIT Press). Gediminas is an Associate Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Programme in Art, Culture and Technology and Nomeda is Research Affiliate at MIT.