press release

22.01.2023 - 02.04.2023

Eglė Budvytytė and Marija Olšauskaitė: Song Sing Soil

i’m growing i’m growing vegies i’m spreading my legs i’m exiting the rat race i’m sucking my mess i compost my fear i lick up my smear i sharpen my instincts i slow down my heartbeats i feed up my rats i go down your spine i drink up your juices...

Vleeshal opens its 2023 program with Song Sing Soil by Eglė Budvytytė and Marija Olšauskaitė.

The venue has been split into two spaces, with two separate entrances. The front room will host a sound installation and function as a kind of rehearsal space for the development of a new performance work, which will evolve throughout the exhibition. There will be a custom-modified trampoline, which visitors are invited to use when there is no performance scheduled. During the performances, the trampoline becomes a stage and an integral part of the choreography—not as a way for the performers to jump into the air, but as a way for them to move while sinking into the ground.

The ground and its composting soils are important motifs for the artists in developing this new work. Gravity has a lot of pull in the choreography; bodies move slowly, through downward horizontality and surrender. The ground is where materials rot and break down while new growth simultaneously takes formation. How to move in the space that exists between form and formlessness? Also: How to move while being moved by each other? Just as the soil is a site of intense and messy relationality, the trampoline is embraced here as a shared plane where everyone is affected by each other’s movements.

In the back space of the Vleeshal is Songs from the compost: mutating bodies, imploding stars, a film by Budvytytė with Olšauskaitė and Julija Steponaitytė, which was exhibited as part of The Milk of Dreams at the 59th Venice Biennale in 2022 and is shown here for the first time in The Netherlands.

Shot on location in the forests and sand dunes around Nida Art Colony on the Curonian Spit in Lithuania, Songs from the compost features a cast of teenage dancers and students from a local high-school, in what has been described as a “meditation on sylvan-cyborgian symbiosis.” Wearing costumes that are partly decomposed after being buried in the ground for several weeks—and with their bodies extended and enhanced through a series of mysterious prosthetics—the performers enact fleshy becomings and un-becomings in ritualized relationships with the landscape.

Sing Song Soil is a multivalently collaborative undertaking, which also has collaboration as one of its central themes. In an essay on Songs from the compost: mutating bodies, imploding stars, which was published in Forest as a Journal in 2021, Amelia Groom picks up on the symbiotic lifeforms and ‘lichenous poetics’ animating this project:

“As composite organisms arising from a relationship between fungi and cyanobacteria or algae, lichens challenge traditional notions of organism and species autonomy, by straddling multiple classificatory designations. Fungi can’t photosynthesise on their own; they propose a structure, through which their photobiont companions bring the light. But the characteristics of lichen aren’t attributable to any of their individual components. There is no simple division of labour through the allocation of predetermined tasks; this is a mode of collaboration where something happens between the contributors which never belonged to any of them.”

Sing Song Soil is curated by Roos Gortzak, director of Vleeshal.

Eglė Budvytytė (b. 1981, Lithuania) is an artist based in Amsterdam and Vilnius. In her practice—which involves songs, poetry, videos and performances—she explores the permeable relationships between bodies, audiences, and environments, with a particular emphasis on the powers of vulnerability and collectivity.

Marija Olšauskaitė (b. 1989, Lithuania) is an artist based in Vilnius and New York City. She employs various modes of collaboration and explores the themes of relationships, openness, intimacy, and belonging.