*this text was written as an intro to a radioshow I curated with Noortje van den Eijnde, presented by Molk Factory.

On Bathing

Imagine yourself in a tub with nothing but the sound of a dripping tap. Your knees as twin peaks above the water, your stomach folded into sandbanks underneath, your ribcage moving up and down, making small waves.

As a kid, I shared the water with my sister and our plastic boats. Stepping into the tub we crossed the border of our own Atlantis. We sat on our knees, stood on our toes, laid on our bellies, fully immersed in the stories we created. One could slip and break one's neck, one could trip and loose one's teeth. These were real concerns, but they were not our concerns.

As a teenager, bathing had become a private, more solemn, act, requiring doors to be locked, blinds to be shut. In that solitary space, I examined my nakedness through the gaze of invisible others. Before getting out, I would watch the warm water form small whirlpools above the drain, waiting for the cold shivers to run up my spine.

Lo que el agua se llevo (1938)
Painting by Frida Kahlo
In the memoir ‘The Red Parts’, poet and novelist Maggie Nelson describes how, as a teenager, she would lay in the bathtub with two coins on her eyes, contemplating her passing into the underworld. Maybe that was what I was doing: practicing my own death in the cask that is the modern bath tub.

Designed to hold one's head up, the tub forces the body into an uncomfortable L-shape, leaving no space to stretch one's legs or rise one's chest. In that confined space, we wait for the water to soak, rinse, and hydrate our individual bodies, before it flows back into a collective sewer.

Connected to an invisible pipeline system that is thousands of kilometers long, the private tub acts as a vessel for clean water to pass through. The water travels far, but we do not take part in its journey. The unruly world is kept at bay while we navelgaze.
Baignoire (Le Bain) (1925)
Painting by Pierre Bonnard 

We turn to the private tub for tranquility, but what it gives us is predictability: a sense of control over an elemental force. But as novelist Jeanette Winterson reminds us: “Our world is as extravagant as the world can be. We are the ones obsessed by measurement. The world just pours it out.” 

As I slide my head underwater, the world pours, and pours, and pours. My ears confront me with the beating of my own heart, my hair dancing around my face in silent strokes. I want to stretch my limbs, to no longer be enclosed. I imagine my body becoming buoyant, flying, falling, floating in open water.

I hold my breath a little longer, looking at the ceiling as bubbles escape my nose. I imagine the bathrooms above me, below me, around me. A still life of unfamiliar bodies in similar postures, all waiting for the water to come, and sweep us off our feet.
Woman Sole in Bath Tub (1976)
Drawing by Domenico Gnoli