Holly Childs & Gediminas Žygus pen a love letter to Odesa amidst planetary emergency with ‘, Throw’
Developed from a poem written in heat of the summer by Childs on visiting Odesa, Ukraine back in 2018.
For the 2022 edition of Rewire Festival, writer and artist Holly Childs and composer and sound artist Gediminas Žygus commissioned a new video work from filmmakers Marijn Degenaar and Nicola Baratto, to accompany a new live performance that would debut at The Hague’s foremost experimental music and arts festival. The result was ‘, Throw,’ an audiovisual composition that started life towards the end of 2021, but that has gathered new, devastating resonance over the first few months of 2022. Developed from a poem that Childs wrote in the heat of the summer on visiting Odesa, Ukraine back in 2018, ‘, Throw’ is a reflection on fleeting moments of desire entangled inextricably with an intoxicating sense of place, as well as love letter to and from Odesa, an invocation of the city in both the interiority of the viewer and of a memory of its exterior physicality, caught out of time. “Odesa is a beautiful and often mythologized city in literature, and itself an influence on modern literature as it was a hub for a lot of writers and poets throughout the 19th and 20th century,” explain Childs and Žygus. “After we invited Nicola and Marijn, together we started adapting the poem to a musical composition in December 2021 with the idea that we would shoot the video in Athens (we decided to film there in order to get plenty of sunshine in early spring). It was just meant to be a spiritual homage to the magic of this Black Sea trading and tourist city. But the composition took on a completely different meaning as we worked on it, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine escalated in the last week of February.”
Centering around a yearning dialogue between two voices, one of them director and performer Marijn Degenaar ‘, Throw’ refracts sunlit vignettes of the city on the Black sea, focusing imagery through a lens clouded by heat haze and sea spray. In the context of the unremitting brutality of the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, the melancholy nostalgia that steeps each of the work’s voices speaks to unbelievable tragedy, the longing of its protagonists expanding into a eulogy for peace in a country shrouded by war and a sun-tinged prayer of hope for a return to the light. “We were devastated for our friends in Ukraine,” Childs and Žygus continues. “We had scheduled to shoot the video in early March in Athens; working on it became a way of dealing with anger, fear and grief. Remembering what Odesa is, was, and will be when invasion is over.” In this sense the esoteric directions given by the film’s protagonists work to locate Odesa both in memory and, more urgently, in the transformational phase the city has been thrust into. The search for the city is also a search for those who know the city as it has been, as well as how it can be. “The characters who voice the track triangulate physical materials in a quest to find *you*, the one who is missing, describing to you where they are, using what’s close at hand as echolocation, radar, a verbal map, bouncing locational information between available landmarks,” explains Childs. “And what are the most significant landmarks? The sun, the moon and the earth. This feeling of triangulation begins and ends with celestial elements.” Bloody toes and towels on the shore serve as talismans of a specific time, just as the pontoon, the bistro and the dolphinarium are elevated to totems of a specific space, markers by which to navigate the sun and the sea.
Artists and filmmakers Marijn Degenaar and Nicola Baratto manifest this urgent act of location in the passionate duet of the work’s protagonists, ossifying their love in a bisected and bisecting ornament. “When thinking about creating a video for “,Throw”, we felt that this duet song embodies a fervent sense of urgency and remote romance,” they describe. “The video narrative was written as a quest for a never setting, perpetual sunset, revolving around a central object of desire. This icy spherical vessel carried by the two characters is somewhat the matter of their conjunction. We were thinking of how the two characters’ separated journeys could still evoke a sense of liminal unity, as if they would be far apart on different continents but still experience a connection, a drive that motivates their complicated meeting at sunset.” Framing the lovers’ movements in gauzy light, water refractions and lysergic, spirallic camera work, Degenaar and Baratto capture moments of intimacy and natural beauty with the timeless blur of daydreamed memory. Sibilant speech and serotonin synth arpeggios imbue each glimpse of sun with heartache, distorted, hard dance bass hits and cinematic sound design dressing each scene with poignant theatricality. “The two figures are inspired by the mythical Persephone and Sisyphus, and their journeys between the realm of the living and the underworld,” continue the filmmakers. “Naya’s vessel carries sand and fire on her path in-and-out darkness while Marijn bears water and air on his journey towards the sea. While carrying their respective half vessels with Ocean and Earth towards the shore, they spiral into a dreamy quest of flashes, glimmers, shimmers, glitters.”
As Gediminas Žygus notes, their collaboration with Holly Childs has consistently “been defined by intimate and emotional experiences of working through and confronting various forms of planetary emergency.” Their first collaborative album, Hydrangea, explored the ways in which platform capitalism, conspiracy theories and online surveillance set the tone for political and private discourse throughout much of the 2010s, giving rise to the commodification of information as a pernicious new mutation of neoliberal expansion. In their follow up, Gnarled Roots, the pair followed these threads into even deeper and denser territory, taking the destruction of the Twin Towers on September 11 and the 2008 financial crash as epochal turning points, the latter of which paving the way the chaos of speculative economies and cryptographic tribalism of our present day. More practically, the artists have found the scope of their collaboration moulded in part by the crises they have encountered over the past few years. “Pandemic travel restrictions meant we worked in different continents for two years,” Žygus continues. “We have been variously caught at the historic acqua alta extreme high-tide event in Venice in 2019; in the Australian bushfire crisis in 2019/20; we developed our second album Gnarled Roots in (and about) the forests in Druskininkai, Lithuania, adjacent to the Belarusian border which has since become the setting of a growing refugee crisis; as well as developing preliminary materials in Odesa for an album that we are working on for release in 2023.”
‘, Throw,’ joins those projects as an incisive and urgent response to the ever increasing complexity of the flattened expanse of the now, an intimate portrait of personal emotional response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine amidst a relentlessly bleak newscycle and a constant stream of open-source intelligence, a sun-drenched daydream of what was once and what will hopefully be again.
, Throw Credits:
Music and Text – Holly Childs & Gediminas Žygus
Video – Marijn Degenaar & Nicola Baratto
Voices – Danae Io, Marijn Degenaar
Performance – Naya Ferentinou, Marijn Degenaar, Yannis Iasonidis
Costumes – Serapis Maritime
Jewellery – Sankto Leono
Production Coordination – Viktor Gogas
Mixed and Mastered – James Ginzburg
Nicola and Marijn would like to thank Bend Studio, Despina Pavlaki, Yannis Iasonidis, Manolis Lemos, George Tigkas, Jola, Ilias Sanidas, Easton West, Yiannis Mouravas. Shout out to Poseidon too.
Commissioned for the 2022 edition of Rewire Festival.
© & ℗ Subtext / Multiverse LTD. 2021
, Throw Lyrics
Set stones become towers,
Losing half-steps stubbing pinky toes on the rocks by the sea.
Playing loops on our backs round the pebbles in the waves flow eternal,
Bloody toes against stones in the sand by our towels on the shore.
Our final steps reflect in pendant glow,
in the sun, and on our skin.
Wash it all away and we drink water,
Wash it down the sink and we want shades.
As the sun darts lights, our silver gowns are fountains reflected,
Hair up, funnelled down our backs, in the sun, off the sea.
And the sun dips, as the sun would dip,
and sea mist bubbles,
|In the waves of the water
On these seaside paths we have no drama,
In our separate tracks we all feel free,
To meet up at the fireworks:
Join us at the pier, on the way to the dolphinarium.
Throw it all away into the water,
Forever dragging sand into the sea.
2 dark moles bilaterally below your shoulder blades
and a lighter one reflected just beneath,
So once it’s gone, skipping over turtles by the docks,
that when the sun dips — Like they always said it would dip,
you can Wash it all away on wanting water,
Throw it all away on needing shade.
And When you get out of the pool,
Sand and sea slide,
Skimming salty sequins graze your angles,
The forever sunset sinking the horizon
Join us at the cafe off the path to the pontoon by the breaker,
We can pitch it off the pier to make-believe.