SAUNA READING GROUP 2016
As an extension of my research into Hermits and issues of retreating and interaction I am hosting a series of invite-only discussions in the tiny basement sauna at the Finnish Church in Rotherhithe.
The Sauna Reading Group is a deliberately awkward, absurd proposition:
- Forcing one traditional format (reading group) into another (sauna ritual)
- Asking participants to think and talk whilst sweating it out in 85°C humidity
- Considering isolation at a communal event
- Discussing behaviour, mysanthropy, idealism, ethics, society, all whilst in a damp swimming costume
- Breaking conversation
every few minutes to cool off in the shower then rest area before returning to the heat.
- Laminating all printed material in advance
- Taking notes on a whiteboard propped up inside the sauna cabin.
However the hope is that this internal logic, however counter-intuitive, may offer some appropriate insight. My interest is in also in embodying some of these hermit-related questions in the very idea, logistics and experience of a Sauna Reading Group: The sauna cabin as a kind of hermitage; this outpost of Finnish culture in London as a kind of retreat; The raked bench seating as ideal layout for discussion; the sweating in gloomy close proximity whilst wearing very little as either a demanding social interaction or welcome contemplative indulgence; the high temperature creating an unavoidable awareness of body and mind functioning together.
The Finnish Church in Rotherhithe is also an appropriate setting as it was originally Christian monks of the 2nd and 3rd centuries who identified themselves as the first Hermits, enforcing self-denial, solitude and asceticism to gain greater awareness and focus.