[project proposal by Anastasia Eggers and Ottonie von Roeder]


“Le Bain Turc” by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

The public bath historically used to be a space where social classes mixed, exchanging local news in an informal setting, generating gossip that would be a driver of democracy or, being under a dominant regime, sharing secrets in an emancipating space. The phenomenon of the collective intimacy would erase the role of a person in the society, presenting them as their true selves. Entering this ritualistic space requires the removal of all layers that shape our social body and leaves us in the state of nakedness, a condition relieved of any hierarchical differentiation that allows for the occurrence of the true collective - the naked collective. Historically, bathing emerged from a collective act into a practical action performed in private, reflecting the loneliness of living in contemporary cities.

Through the history of Essen and its citizens there are various cultural concepts of collective bathing that we would like to research on and readapt to the contemporary urban space. We want to use the Zollverein and its surroundings as a testing ground to review the phenomena of public bathing and reinvent the intimacy of a public space, creating interventions in the city that explore the several aspects connected to collective bathing reflected in societal tendencies: For instance, how the design of public baths indicates the dynamics of social or gender segregation in society. How can design contribute to a transition from individual routines in hygiene to public rituals, shifting the bathing as a part of the sociotechnical systems.

We would like to use the residency during the Urban Frictions festival to continue our research on public bathing that we will start as part of the SharedCities residency at ZK/U Berlin in March and April. In our artistic practice, we use research and experimentation in order to come to a conceptual and playful design proposal that allows societal shifts and triggers discussion. Our working methodologies and project outputs include theoretical research, field research, writing, exhibitions, discussions, workshops, interdisciplinary collaborations, experiments, physical installations, hacking, performance, video and speculation.

While being part of the Urban Frictions festival we would like to collaborate with the festival attendees but also socio-cultural researchers, urban planners and local actors who have an interest in (communal) bathing and the process of cleaning your body. During the festival, we would implement experimental interventions in urban space thematising environmental, cultural and social aspects of communal bathing. These interventions invite the public to take part in a collective experience of intimacy and the democratising role of communal bathing but would at the same time feed our research. The installations used for the experiments and the documentation of the interventions can be used for events and discussions during the festival.

Mobile Swimming Pool, for teaching kids swimming, Detroit

Finnish soldiers relaxing in a sauna between battles during the Winter War, 1939-1940

Bijlmeer Hammam, Hammam in a former prison, Amsterdam

A. Nikolsky, Banya-Swimming pool, experimental project, 1928

Craig Green, Autumn Winter collection 2018

Audrey Snare, Just Add Water: Rethinking the Urban Bath House for Contemporary Society

Valeria di Leone, Shower Time, 2016

Philipp Kolmann, Body Culture, 2017