Bathing explores themes of contamination, cleanliness, and debility through performance and dance. It is an adaptation of a performance Staff developed that features a solo performer moving in and out of a shallow basin of water. Between the performer’s movements, the video intersperses images of oil, spit, fluid landscapes, and U.S. border patrol, with flashes of a dog lost to a blissful state of chaos.
The work draws on Staff’s research into the classical figure of the bather, chemical effects, drunken revelry, and the spiritello figures that commonly adorn European fountains. The performer’s continuous actions and gestures eventually lead to overexertion of the body. A fluid cross-contamination between substance, performer, and image occurs, bringing to mind the ways in which bodies absorb and release chemicals, hormones, and other agents—a means of survival for some and potentially lethal for others.
The video embraces feelings of anxiety induced by stagnant water and its pollution, while expressing ambivalence about the supposed opposition between inebriation and good health, suggesting that states of intoxication may be compared to a queer mode of being. However, while offering the toxic as a possible source of liberation from conservative notions of well-being and capacity, Bathing also asks us to consider the inherent privilege in celebrating states of disorder and from whom those privileges are commonly withheld.