The Bath House is a filmed re-imagination of ‘The Bathhouse’, a 1930s Constructivist play, written by Vladimir Mayakovsky and directed by Vesevolod Meyerhold. Mayakovsky’s ‘drama in six acts with a circus and fireworks’ was a satire on state bureaucracy, featuring a time machine rather than a bathhouse. Meyerhold used the play to display a range of theatrical styles, from naturalism, through dance, to agitprop. Each served as an attraction in itself, but as a sequence became a stinging challenge to critical / ideological / political complacency.
The Bath House video was commissioned by Collective Gallery and produced to mark the closure of the Royal Commonwealth Pool in Edinburgh. The Commonwealth Pool, designed by Edinburgh architects RMJM in the 1960s, is a classic piece of Scottish modernist architecture. Halonen was struck by the similarity of the building’s interior—particularly its platforms and diving boards—to the set used for The Bathhouse, staged in 1930.
Junior members from the group most affected by the closure, the Edinburgh Diving Club, perform as actors creating their demonstration against the closure.
Halfway through Mayakovsky’s original, the actors rebel and take control of the direction. This process is paralleled in this re-imagination.