River’s Odyssey is a three-part experience which tells the story of a wandering child named River who sets out bravely on a journey to find Beeja (camphor tree), in a world almost submerged by the rising ocean tides. The river he travels by is an overspill of seawater, replete with plants that have navigated, adapted to and are now thriving in an ever-changing landscape on the brink. Wildlife is present, heard but not seen, immersing River in a type of ethics of attention. In this virtual embodiment of River’s World, sound guides your narrative, creating a unique viewing experience for each viewer ground in their own curiosity.
The multi-sensory installation touches on themes of colonialism, cultivation and creolisation, leaning on reciprocation, intergenerational and interspecies knowledge that is gained through communication in the sanctum of the tree. The chrysalis-like hollow in the tree becomes an immersive environment for deep listening, quantum storytelling, exploration, magical thinking and metamorphosis. Time spent in there enables the flowering of a different kind of connectedness, where a being who enters it, physically or spiritually, is never quite the same when they leave, forever embedded with a seed of intent and purpose.
River’s Odyssey is designed and modelled on the shape of breathing, which is box-shaped and visualised in 3D. We follow a hologram of River sat on a giant lilypad or nymphae on a journey towards Beeja, absorbing the environment around them as they go, taking in the life of the gardens on their way to their ancestral home. The plural installation and art work seeks to acknowledge and educate on how plants that were forcibly moved from their native lands under the Empires of the 18th century to create Gardens of Eden in plantation colonies all over the world. In River's Odyssey, these specimens have been captured as digital scans or photogrammetry in an act of re-worlding a digital garden of paradise based on an arboretum in Mauritius.
The artist invites you to take a pilgrimage in River's garden and to feel the delicate yet enduring interspecies connection between River and his camphor tree. Once the connection is established, ‘tune into' the arboreal frequency and reassess your bio-political position on nature and climate issues. The garden here becomes a site for entanglement, a site for enlightenment achieved through the realisation that River and the tree share a prior connection through ancestral care, but that their natural bond is through the delicate exchange that happens through the breath. What connects us is the breath!
Written and Directed by Savyna
In Collaboration with Joseph Whitmore (Animation Director) and Yueshen Wu (Interaction Designer)
Performed by Oscar Rai (River), Titreranjan Mandil (Beeja) and Tara Lee (Mother Nature)
Installation collaborators Zacharias Wolfe & Dragon (Sound & Music), Eva Mandula & Vazul Kölès (Sculpture) and Kristof Novàk (Cinematographer)