Solo Sauna Retreats
former gay sauna
text only in written language
Het resort won’t host any public events at the sauna in the near future. We know these are difficult times for all who can not work from their own home. So, in the coming weeks we will host 'solo sauna retreats' for our volunteers and former-resorters who currently live in Groningen. They can use this time to do some research, make sketches, work on art, make or record music or do some reading and writing.
click to unfold stories
solo sauna retreat #1: iulia aionesi, 13–19 april
iulia: 'I’m currently writing my thesis paper on the concept of site-specificity and its importance into contemporary dance/theatre practices. Having the sauna as a space for exploration, probably helped me engage deeply with the research content, both practically and artistically. This created the opportunity to materialise the theoretical knowledge, by mapping the specificity of the sauna through my own bodily interactions and movement imprints, through an improvisational dance exercise (found in my books).
Spending a week by myself in such a huge space clearly impacted the way I observed the space before the retreat, as now I was able to self-reflect upon the countless possibilities of ‘being’ in a space or situation (either individually or collectively). Also, there are lots of mirrors in the sauna, which makes it almost impossible not to confront your different identity selves.’
solo sauna retreat #3: radina kordova, 27 april–3 may
radina: 'This has been a fruitful week! I took this amazing opportunity and gave myself a project and a chance to continue working with sound and music. For a whole week I had a four story, old gay sauna building to myself and I decided to make a concept album for it. I scavenged for the perfect places in there that drew my attention. I ‘gave’ each spot an atmosphere to make a song in by working only with three color lights, my equipment and the characteristics of each individual space. That way I also discovered something useful for the next time I would make an installation - having a small amount of materials and tools can be more than enough to make you feel satisfied with the end result.
I was inspired by the isolation, by the creepiness of the empty facility, by contemplation and by cherry blossoms. Those ideas guided me through each song spot and I ended up recording eight tracks, which still have to be fully realized. I used my surroundings to record some details, like a piece of aluminum metal I found, or random leakage sounds, or small pebbles on the ground. The result became more or less like a soundtrack to a movie with a big amount of ambient songs filled with small details and occasional singing or grunting. My approach to making soundscapes is not guided by a ‘correct’ music language, but rather based on a collage principle, intuition and concept. For completing this project I would like to record all the songs on cassettes, accompanied by small photo books with pictures of each location.'
solo sauna retreat #2: kamile cesnaviciute, 20–26 april
kamile: ‘Finally getting a space to work in, while this silent madness is roaming around, was relieving. Such a big space to do whatsoever, but honestly I used only the cozy middle floor, where the kitchen is. But even there the feeling from the outside would come through every time the wind hit the neon plexiglass.
I got to paint again after a few weeks of not being able to, such a liberating feeling. Here and now my work became a reflection of this quarantine. It kind of sucks... But also because of it I started to work with clay, just so I could feel the process of creating with my whole hands. I managed to concentrate and do some projects I had deadlines for, something I'm usually dreading to do. So in overall I made a fresh start for work and projects further on in 'the new normal'.’
solo sauna retreat #4: lee mc donald, 4–10 may
Day 1. I went to the sauna, looked around and took some photos and videos of the space. Then I took a nap. When I woke up I went home.
Day 2. On the way to the sauna some bread crates captured my eye, beautiful golden bread crates illuminated by the sun. When I got to the sauna. I started to do some TESTS consisting of balloons and bin bags of various colors. The balloons were inflated in the crevices of the building and holes that had been drilled into the floor. When balloons inflated some popped, some flew, some just made funny noises, but they were temporary colorful sound sculptures that reacted to the fabric of the building.
Day 3. The bag's reaction to the light coming through the window brightens up the room again. Making sounds that are talking a different language by a rhythm lasting longer than the balloons movements. I remembered the bread crates and imagined what they would be like in the sauna. How would I get them in? I would have to squash them in. Squashing in through the crevices.
Day 4. The airplane ‘Tom Cruise’ parks an airplane on the roof outside. It was distracting. So I went up to the loft to work and there I found another airplane. Same make and model, the F-14D Super Tomcat, the same one used in Top Gun. I started to imagine myself talking to Tom and what sort of conversation we would have and why he would be in Groningen. Was it to sell a subscription or a book about scientology or did he just steal the airplane and thought he was Tom Cruise from Top Gun all over again? A few scenarios went through my head. I could go on, but I won't because this is already strange enough.
Day 5. I wanted to use the the different floors in the space, so I built the motor system with a drive shaft made from a mop handle fixed to a chair in one space and borrowed Toms airplane to put it on the other end of the mop handle. On the ground floor the actions, when activated, were interesting. The airplane flies off the screen the chair shifts around in a wonky maner.
Day 6. I didn't come in.
Day 7. Tom had gone. I then proceeded to make some TESTS, but the balloon pump had broken. I used a big sand bag and put it on a motor. It turned and made a nice rhythm and a pattern in the sand dust on the floor. I danced to it for a moment then packed my things and went home.
solo sauna retreat #5: marnix sixma, 11–24 may
Marnix: "Don’t get me wrong, but you not being there was a gift. An invitation. It made me realize how absent you were. Made me wonder whether we could still meet.
It started out as a joke. I created the setting of a big happening that couldn’t be attended live and filmed it. Filmed myself. It made me wonder. Even though it was filmed, could I still be performing for you? Could you actually be present? There was the illusion of a happening we both attended, even though it was at different moments in time. Maybe the illusion of contact could be a form of contact by itself. Maybe.
Subconsciously I have been recreating the situation of the two of us. By splitting myself up into a spectator and a performer, I made myself distant and present at the same time. I think it was because I was missing you. If I would be distant too, we could be distant together. It felt solid. Felt like the only way to bring you back. I wouldn’t have tried if you would have been there."
solo sauna retreat #6: jens huls, 25–31 may
Jens: "Finally having the space to toy around in it felt like children's play. Seeing the sauna develop throughout all of the retreats was quite a special experience. With its cracks everywhere, broken windows and walls the sauna felt like a home under construction.
I was always fascinated by these kind of environments. During my final day of the retreat I cleaned the sauna from top to bottom, as I am quite allergic to pollen and dust. While cleaning, I noticed that this imposing space actually grew quite tender. Cleaning the sauna felt like taking care, where I felt nurtured by this space.
After all seven days, I felt strangely weird leaving. It felt like leaving home."
solo sauna retreat #7: sophia löwe, 01–07 june
resort note: sophia's stay was during the BLM and human rights protests all around the world. During her stay at the sauna she aimed to explore (black feminist) story stelling as a practice that reads/tells stories into the wor(l)d as a liberation practice. Het resort is happy that Sophia used this opportunity to stress the importance of these issues.
sophia: We are the stories, we tell ourselves” writes Aja Monet (in “My Mother Was A Freedom Fighter, 2017).
As a guiding theme for my retreat, my aim was to explore (Black feminist) story telling as a practice that reads/tells stories into the wor(l)d as a liberation practice. By radically weaving love into every breath, every word, every silence.
During my first day of solo sauna retreat, I walked through the house and listened to the different rooms, trying to take in some of the noises and stories the walls must have saved over the years. I was amazed to notice that each room had a very distinct feeling, sound and color to it. In an attempt to make a map, I recorded these different feelings/colors on a round canvas that later became my personal portrait of the house (inspired by Alexis P. Gumbs’ M-Archive). As I was busy completing my MA Thesis, I decided the house would be my audience for the upcoming days. Everyday, I picked one excerpt from my thesis (or from the various poems and texts by Black feminist authors that inspire(d) me) to read out to one of the rooms in the building. The result was a beautiful experience of meeting these wor(l)ds in my own voice, spinning them through the different rooms and possibly leaving some stories behind in the walls, so that they may tell them to those who listen in the future.
“It Matters What Stories Tell Stories; It Matters Whose Stories Tell Stories” (Donna Haraway), for “Nobody’s free, until everybody’s free” (Fannie Lou Hamer).
HET RESORT IS supported by:
Mondriaan Fund, Gemeente Groningen, Academie Minerva, Kunstraad Groningen, NNT + Club Guy & Roni