ON BEING RITUAL – An Exclusive Interview with BATHAUS

by JC Gonzo

The cleverly named BATHAUS is perhaps the sole example of a Witch House based collaborative, new media art project. Spanning across photo, performance, video, and sound, the emerging “collective phantasm” is rather young, forming through bedrooms and basements over the past 3 years. In this short time, BATHAUS has quickly progressed in quality and style. Their fusion of analog and digital mediums isn’t always obvious; the transition of mediums to subject matter, then to presentation is both figuratively and literally blurry. I’m curious to see where BATHAUS will go next. Will they transcend the trend? In a time when art collectives are not only a dime-a-dozen, but so loosely formed, often opting out of definitive ideals or unifying principles in favor of humorous frivolity and egocentrism, BATHAUS feels solid.

I spoke with BATHAUS after exploring their ambiguous, enigmatic world.

What is BATHAUS & what spawned its creation? How is it a collective effort and what’s your stance on the collective mindset?

BATHAUS is an interdisciplinary multi-media project that creates work through the cumulative fusion of sound, visuals and performance. The project spawned from my interest and experimentation with this fusion of sound and visuals and has since become more a collective rather than an individual effort. I think the evolution of the collective began with the pursuit of collaborative performance for my individual experiments and recognizing that the work could be not only sustained and supported, but also enhanced by this collaborative rout. Works now call for the individual skills of artists and performers who share the common perspective of the project.

Is your surreal distortion of reality a philosophical or aesthetic endeavor? Why do you choose to do so through themes of theatrical macabre, sensuality, and ritual?

They’re connected. I’m interested in the mystery of information loss; what happens with math and science are skewed and warped into blurs or nonsensical words and blips. I guess the surreality comes from unsettling feeling that’s evocative of never really being able to understand. My inherent interest in macabre and mysticism combined with learned practicie of prayer and ritual are most definitely nourished by the idea of a distorted reality. The visuals are somewhat theatrical, but intentionally non-cinematic. The intention is not to tell a story, but to convey a feeling.

Tell me about your photographic processes. The images vary texturally, I can never quite tell if they’re digital or analog, or to what degree of the two combined.

It’s a combination and usually always different as I don’t really have a formula for making images. I’m always experimenting with new ways to distort an image and the distortion can be experimented with either during a shoot or after during processing. I’m interested in the contorted forms and blurs that are created from the natural movement of the model/ performer and the controlled movement of the camera. I use homemade of filters such as plastic, glass, smoke or fabric. I’m into layers. I tend to re-photograph images after they’ve been made, either from computer and TV screens or projections. I use this technique a lot and find that this atmospheric space in between teh camera and the image somewhat erases the image that I had previously made, creating a new one almost entirely out of my control.

What have you discovered transforming imagery, sound, and performance through various mediums?

There is a constant transformative element. I’ve found that the various mediums function like filters. Each time the same piece material (a performance on video, for example), is transferred through the one medium, the material loses an important piece of information. Many different images can be created from one piece of material.

As a multimedia project, what new territory will BATHAUS venture into next?

BATHAUS hopes to put out an album of drone sounds and cathedral vocals. The record release will be in a very small cave.

Much of BATHAUS’ video collection falls in line with the Witch House tendency of utilizing appropriation, found footage manipulation, and celebrating lo-fi video fetishes. Included is a scene from Derek Jarman’s Jubilee.

 

 

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