River’s Odyssey 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.
The dialogue River and Beeja exchange, via a transistor radio at first, “trees communicate at 220 hz frequency”, offers an insight into the connections between child and tree, through ancestral care, the breath they exchange and the site-specific memories they co-create. It touches on themes of colonialism, cultivation and creolisation, leaning on reciprocation, intergenerational and interspecies knowledge that is gained through communication. 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.
It is presented as a 3-part experience, first with a spatial sound piece called "Ile et Une Nuit", then an audio-visual piece built in Unreal Engine. Where that story ends in the digital realm, a new one begins in the hollow of a physical miniature garden, conjoined as a plural multi-sensory installation with a bonsai tree in full bloom. Part 3, is a VR piece, where the viewer is invited to be immersed in the botanical garden, the site for River's Odyssey, feeling nature and being connected to the Camphor Tree and hollow, by the breath connection.The VR piece is designed and augmented with digital sculptures for Dragon Chen's piece, 'The Stone-cene', to create a hybrid, symbiotic space conducive for coexistence among all species.
River's Odyssey is Written and Directed by Savyna, in collaboration with Joseph Whitmore, Bryan Yueshen Wu and Dragon Chunyi Shen. Performed by Oscar Rai (River), Titreranjan Mandil (Beeja) and Tara Lee (Mother Nature). Collaborators on the installation are Zacharias Wolfe (music), Eva Mandula & Vazul Kölès (Sculpture) and Kristof Novàk (Cinematographer).