‘An Experiment in Intervals II – Bathhouse No.5’, MaD, New Era for Humanity

An Experiment in Intervals II – Bathhouse No.5
Video (07:37) & Print (Untitled #6 /9 in this series on show)


The hauntings of empire and its failed utopias continue to resound in its architectures. A lone figure inhabits this space, drawn by the nostalgia and romanticism of its promises as materialised in its decay.

Tskaltubo, translating to ‘living water’, is a region of Georgia famous for its bathhouses and sanatoriums, many of which were built during the Soviet occupation. Today these grand emporiums stand abandoned, some housing the so-called Internally Displaced Peoples involuntarily moved off their lands, others acting as sites for local contraband and touristic indulgence. Enveloped in mildew, the swell of forestland commences its reclamation of these sites.

In ‘Architecture from the Outside’, Elizabeth Grosz explores the impossibility of architectural utopias and raises the potentiality of spaces of ‘inbetweenness’, or intervals: sites of transition, where experiments in spatial and temporal arrangements form possibilities of alternate futurities. Drawing on Irigiray’s feminist conception, the Interval can be seen as a mode of inhabitation – a subversion of the containment imposed by patriarchal paradigms and their architectures of excess (Monstrous Architectures).

At Bathhouse No.5, a lone figure commences an experiment in such an interval;
an alternate purposing of the once Monstrous Architecture, now a dormant space. She trespasses alongside the encroaching forest’s swaying vines. The histories, narratives and ideologies imprinted upon the site suspend in this temporal ecological entanglement – an opening for anew.

The piece, first improvised in silence, is accompanied by Mozart Piano Concerto No. 23 in A minor played by Maria Yudina. It is rumoured that this recording was made as per the request of Joseph Stalin. A request that caused such stress that it exhausted three conductors before the piece was completed. But the pianist Maria Yudina was unperturbed. In response to his praises for her work, Yudina wrote him a letter, vowing to pray for his sins against the people and the country. Although her arrest was prepared, Stalin spared her life. He is also said to have listened to the recording in his dying hours.

Our relationship to futurity is obscured by the hauntings of empire. We draw the lines of our body from the architectures of civilisation built by our fictions of progress. Contained in the crumbling fixtures of failed utopias we ordain ourselves as lost. But within the experience of inhabitation, of ecological entanglement with Others that transcends spatio-temporal linearity, there are openings for alternate realities beckoning.


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