In 2022 the Byzantine Bath of Theotokopoulos st, opens up towards different spaces of the city of Thessaloniki and becomes a place of meetings, as it has always been.
Two women, the Korean digital artist Jaehwa Baek and the Greek visual artist Aggelina Voskopoulou, meet each other, taking inspiration from the Byzantine Bath, inside MOMus-Experimental Centre for the Arts and discuss through their digital works, in a meeting with the Body; the body whose care and liberty was the common rule inside the Byzantine Bath.
A meeting with the visibility of the body, its alienation, its humiliation and its freedom, its diversity and its beauty, its autonomy and its confinement.
This artistic meeting, which is based on digital art (Video art, 3d animation art), is extremely revelatory, because it leads us to the visibility of social and political hetero- determinations and weighs that burden the body, the body that is suffocating, that is injured.
In the world that Jae-Nder Fluid creates, the limits between reality and digital space are blurred, allowing to emerge, with greater freedom, sharp aspects of her political and social concerns.
Her work ‘’Innaccessible Space’’ studies the manifold difficulties that people of different genders are faced with, when they use public toilettes, structures which are addressed, in the first place, to a binary society that accepts the existence of only two genders.
In the work ‘’Inaccessible Space’’ the public space (public toilettes) decreases, it becomes a space of social control and identification of the gender. It pushes people of different genders into humiliating “confessions of the body, of the gender and of social morality”:
-Hey you, you were mistaken, men’s restroom is over there.
-Show me your Id.
- You know why…
In the public toilets, the care of the body is, by definition, a public good, like it was in the Byzantine Bath. Both structures constitute a social service of an organized society that aims at the satisfaction of this instinctive, primal even, human necessity of cleanness, protection of one’s health, and care for one’s life.
Jae-Nder Fluid deconstructs and reconstructs the space of a real, digital, neutral toilet, for all genders, with such a focus and fixation as if she was establishing, from the beginning, new social systems.
Angelina Voskopoulou, a pioneer artist in the domain of screen dance video art, with the work ‘’Sensitive chaos’’ brings the body on the forefront. With the help of water, memory and movement.
The body is now visible, extended, it defines its space.
In her digital world, the body and, almost always, the body that moves, constitutes an almost crushing, natural force. In the work that she created especially for the Byzantine Bath, the body is the carrier of water that cleans, creates and destroys through its diverse qualities (the light, amniotic fluid, the sacred waters of Stiga, the heavy and cold waters of Ades).
When Jaehwa's gender non-binary bodies are challenged and wounded, Voskopoulou brings to the Body the power of water, the Byzantine bath, and gives clear thoughts concerning the natural circle of life and the constant flow of water that we often forget to follow.
In the Byzantine Bath, water takes care of the body of the rich and of the poor, of the Christian and of the Jew. It allows the body to be happy, to heal itself, to be visible, to be protected from the cold, to desire and to be desired.
Most importantly: the Bath allows the society to be united, to be together.
Even though Christian morality encouraged believers to take their bath only when there are reasons of health, studies show that Christians continued to enjoy their baths to a greater extend that what was accepted by the clerics. And those who rejected the Bath (ascetics, monks etc.) were the ones to reject society as a whole (*).
Filia Milidaki -Curator
(*) M. Zytka, A cultural history of Bathing in late antiquity and early Byzantium, 2019, Routledge, NY.
Photo credits: Gkogkopoulos Kyriakos, Karamanli Aphroditi, Mavromatidou Vilma, Metaksas Dimitris, Tsiliggoudis Thanasis, Hatzis Ilias // Out of FoCus 2014
Art in Public space is a live experience