Proposal by: Natascha Nanji

Welcome to Studio Swan

Project proposal: An interpersonal, speculative fiction proposition

Welcome to Studio Swan is a speculative proposition that asks what conditions would be appropriate for us to temporarily become with plant or animal? And why would this be something desirable or necessary to undertake? A form of meditation? An alternative to travel? Or to expand our horizons of comprehending what it could feel like to be more than human?

Welcome to Studio Swan is a stage to play out scenes that can help us cultivate deeper relationships with and understandings of, the complex knot of problems we are currently confronted with. As we re-imagine our relationship with the environment, this requires re-imagining our selves and our thinking as inextricably entangled with the non-human world. Studio Swan is always in the process of becoming - a living metaphor - an essential way to think through concepts which are not yet describable, to access different modes of inhabitation.

This proposal is to fund an iteration of Studio Swan situated in the grounds of Mediamatic, perhaps in the barn studio space. Giving Studio Swan a physical place to land will encourage the growth of tendrils, the characters and dramas that unfold will play in and around the workshops and labs, with visitors, artists and all those who are based here.

I often think of the way activist and writer Adrienne Marie Brown writes about emergence in this context, “Emergence is a system that makes use of everything in the iterative process - combining the intelligence of many to achieve ongoing group adaptation - science fiction is simply a way to practice the future together.”



Welcome to Studio Swan - credits: Natascha Nanji

Project Description

Welcome to Studio Swan is a play set in a post pandemic world. Borders are closed and travel between countries has ground to a halt. Airlines carry supplies, post and VIPs. Trains and coaches run less frequently. We can go nowhere.

To stave off the irritability and demands from people who desire travel, a group of scientists deployed by the State are tasked with creating a technique to allow for intra-consciousness travel - that is - to travel inwards - to experience another consciousness – that of an animal or plant.

The Scientists initially believed their work was intended as a democratic form of introspective entertainment. Soon the clandestine tactics of the State and their Allies were revealed. The technique was designed to replace specific memories, so that eventually people would have no recollection of ever having traveled beyond a 50 mile radius of their dwelling.

The Scientists absconded from the facility taking their research to establish a clinic. They now operate as interlopers, administering the intra-consciousness treatment to fugitives who seek them out.

Whilst previous iterations of Studio Swan have involved writing workshops and encounters, they have been short-lived. Installing Studio Swan as a durational project will give it time and space to morph and take shape. As more participants and ideas are encountered, more intimate relations to the environment will be generated and within it, deeper and vibrant stories will bloom.

These are the main elements that will happen over the duration of the project:

  1. One of the integral methodologies of staging Studio Swan involves participants literally playing out the scenes via improvisation and dialogues. Concepts and propositions of the story will be explored by inhabiting characters physically, emotionally and intellectually, bringing to life something I read about Karrabing Film Collectives’ methods, “Perhaps the central purpose is to discover what we never  knew we knew by hearing what we say in moments of improvisation. We suddenly see what we have been  saying—what we have been sensing”.                                       
  2. Co-creating the backstories of characters, narrative drives, conflicts, plot points etc of Studio Swan with visitors and all those involved at Mediamatic. These co-creation sessions take place over coffee mornings, immersive writing afternoons, and improvisation workshops.                                                                                                                                           
  3. Using a character and their associated traits as a starting point, conversations meander across personal experiences, research and flights of imagination. Other tendrils of speculative discussion can include the communicative possibilities of mycelium networks and the sorts of therapies that are offered at Studio Swan to enhance and enable intra-consciousness travel to become with plant and animal.                                                                                    
  4. The stories and dramas that are revealed will be collected, edited and added into the interactive storytelling platform, Twine, which is the space where the characters of Studio Swan are currently housed. Over the course of the project the story will develop and grow to include sounds, images and narrative pathways. This will be an ever expanding compendium all about Studio Swan. You can view the current Twine introduction here.                                                      
  5. The barn space at Mediamatic will be presented as the clinic, and visitors will be immersed in Studio Swan as they enter. 

Possible ways to expand the project

Another, more ambitious aspect of landing Studio Swan at Mediamatic is generating sensory over and undertones; aromas and infusions could be experimented with to imbue the space with energies, tastes, scents and sounds to further heighten the experience of visiting Studio Swan. Intoxicating the environment as participants share stories, co-create and collaborate with the drama is alluring. For this aspect of the project I would commission a sound artist and aromatic practitioner to respond to the clinic and story.

About the artist: Natascha Nanji

Over the past few years, I have been writing essays and stories for art & design journals and magazines, exhibitions, independent publishers, and developing workshops and performance for art institutions and galleries. I perform my writing at events, exhibitions, and conferences. 

Some of the areas I have been researching include multi-species entanglements, travel & landscape, historical and speculative fictions, radical hospitality, and the erotic. My works are often the cumulation of research, journeys and applied methodologies borrowed from anthropology, performance and theatre. 

I am especially interested in excavating unexpected relationships between materials, objects, methods, and historical figures, and re-assembling and integrating these disparate components to appear as if they were inherently related.

My educational background is in anthropology and post-colonial literature, studio art practice, art history and art writing.

Aside from writing, my other recent projects include a queer literary magazine Lay it on Thick which was printed in Bangkok and distributed in cities across Asia and the UK, and The Theatre Group, an experimental theatre troupe and pedagogy practice. I am mainly based in London but leave as often as possible.

My work can be seen at

Estimated costs

please note I will supply a more detailed budget upon request, and where possible will look for materials to be donated, friends to house me during my stay, and so forth.

x2 months accommodation in Amsterdam: 1250

artist fee: 1250

graphic designer: 500

materials budget for clinic creation: 750

budget for soundscape and/or aromatic practitioner: 1000

TOTAL: 4750 euros

 This proposal is part of the 'Penny for your Thoughts' project 2022.