Oh Europa

Hello, we’re Gemma and James. We’re British artists, and we work together under the name Action Hero. We’re spending the next 6 months making and presenting a project called Oh Europa.

On April 19th we’re moving out of our house in Bristol, UK, and we’re driving over 30,000km through Europe for 6 months in a customized motorhome. Along the way, we will invite people into our motorhome to sing a love song, a capella.

We’ll be building up an ever-growing archive, an evolving library of voices singing in multiple languages with sentiments of love, loss, heartbreak, union, hope and longing. We hope to record traditional songs, folk songs, the latest Justin Beiber, obscure Greek death metal, classic Mariah Carey ballads, songs we know and songs we don’t, songs sung by voices from all the corners of the continent and further afield, sung to us by the people who’re living in Europe now, whoever they are wherever they’re from.

We’ll carry them with us as we travel to every corner of the continent. From the Northern-most tip in Norway to the Southern-most point in Spain, and pretty much everywhere in between. We’ll be attempting to reach all the cardinal points of Europe, the most northerly, southerly easterly and westerly points, the literal edges of the continent. In these locations, and at other borders/edge spaces/points of convergence and departure in between, we will set up a series of beacons from which to broadcast the love songs, a kind of epic song cycle transmitting 24/7.

These sites are distant coastlines, forgotten borders, ancient walls, remote outposts of vanished empires, rivers that divide cities, overgrown relics, mountain ranges, bridges, channels, straits or canals. The literal edges of the continent such as Cabo de Roca on the western coast of Portugal but also the invisible boundaries, the geological thresholds and the cultural junctures that populate the Europe. Places like a village train station in Ghimes, Romania on the historic Austro-Hungarian border that attracts trainloads of flag-waving Hungarian revellers once a year on kind of pilgrimage to celebrate the remains of a long-gone empire. The Lunghin Pass in Switzerland, high up in the Alps, a triple watershed where the water flowing from the mountain can travel to the Atlantic, Mediterranean or Black sea. Overgrown border patrol tracks in farmer’s fields. The continental divide monument that sits unassumingly on the banks of the Danube-Rhine Canal.

At each of these spots, the love songs are being transmitted, so reconfiguring edges, margins & hinterlands into multiple proliferative ‘centres’. Oh Europa’s beacons will begin a process of connection between these sites, an acupuncture of the body of Europe in order to create a different set of connections, flows and circuits. The project seeks to imagine other forms of mapping, one that represents the relationships between people and space rather than one that is about territory.

The broadcasts act as subtle disruptors– transmitting an opaque but heartfelt message. A dispatch from elsewhere containing each other’s voices, perhaps at their most vulnerable, broadcast loud and clear. Detached from political posturing, hollow rhetoric and empty sound bites, these messages speak in song about who we are and how we feel. In short, they cut straight to the heart, offering an opportunity to re-orientate, for people living in Europe to re-imagine our relationships to each other outside of the dominant discourse- to hear ourselves emerge out of the white noise.

It is our hope that the voices of the participants in the project and the planting of these beacons might re-imagine the European landscape. Our motorhome becomes an ‘All Terrain Vehicle’, a vehicle to explore all the terrains of Europe – psychic, emotional, political and physical. The journey becomes a hopeful, reparative act, an ambiguous, complex kind of connectivity. Like the love songs we carry with us it is an act of love but it contains all the pain, drama, loss and trauma that love can bring. Our connections are not defined by a romanticized or over-simplified universality but by contradiction, complexity and shared humanity and all that that entails.