THEBATHTUBPROJECT

exploring vulnerability and transparency one bath at a time

Jennifer Chukwu

 

Date of Interview: November 18th, 2017

Name: Jennifer Chukwu

Age: 23

Pronouns: She/Her

Location: Chicago, IL

 

How often do you bathe or shower?

I try to shower every day. Then take baths, maybe twice a month only when I’m feeling really stressed and overwhelmed. I like the feeling of just sitting in water.

If you were an underwater creature, what one would you be?

SpongeBob. He doesn’t make any sense. I’ve been rewatching a bunch of episodes of Sponge Bob recently [laughter], and there’s one episode where Sponge Bob is trying to be a lifeguard, but he can’t swim even though the entire world is under water [laughter]. So I want to be SpongeBob just to figure out the anatomy of him. Then also probably try to talk to Squidward more about mental health and everything. Because his stories are sad [laughter].

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about writing. I write short stories, novels, and lately, I’ve been doing some non-fiction. My writing is about my experience being a Black, queer writer, and feeling uncomfortable in different spaces. I attempt to replicate that feeling of isolation so that people can get a taste of what it’s like being surrounded but completely alone.

What drives you to write?

Survival. I’ve always struggled with depression, and so writing is my way to kind of explore what’s going on in a safe space. It’s kind of like engaging with a monster on a chain, and not getting too hurt by it. What do you feel accomplished with? I feel really accomplished about the development of my writing voice. A lot of my writing is rooted in painful experiences. Being able to go to a text and read that experience, and see what I learned and how I’ve grown makes me feel really happy.

What is something you still struggle with?

Oh, I still struggle with wanting/needing to be validated. I am always asking myself questions like, “Am I good enough? Do they like me? Are they secretly talking about me behind my back?” And then I still struggle with the idea, all the time, as to whether or not this thing I’m doing, pursuing a career in the arts is just a childhood dream or the real deal.

What are your thoughts on relationships? Platonic, sexual, and otherwise?

Who understands relationships? I understand really intense friendships. Because with me my friendships are very like, “We’re in this!” Also, I’ve never had a serious partner. If I am bringing you into my life as a potential partner it is really because I believe in our love and us. But also even after the love is gone, there’s still something there that we could work with. Honestly, I don’t know. My understanding of love is both practical and not practical. I always had the understanding growing up that love would not always be enough and that you’re going to need something else. Like, “Yes. I love you. But what’s next?”

How does your queerness play into romantic relationships?

It’s so hard because I just somewhat figured out who I am. I understand what I’m doing and the person I want to become. So now, when it comes to dating, I’m only 23, but I want the real deal. I don’t want to date around just for the pleasure of being next to someone. So it’s hard trying to explain that to people [laughter]. And I probably shouldn’t– I’m not good at having filters and knowing when to stop talking or explaining. And so I want to bring that up in the first date and they’re kind of like, “Uh. ” Basically it’s just all jumbled up and confusing, but it will figure itself out eventually.

At what point did you realize who you wanted to become and who you are?

Let’s see. So in terms of my writing, I wrote this personal essay about my childhood my senior year of college. I think that essay taught me how to write what I wanted to write. And then, in terms of learning who I wanted to be, I moved out of Chicago for three months and that was just a shit show. And so, coming back from that and having to start my life over showed me the things that I value. Somehow I keep coming back to the art and writing world and I’m getting some good feedback from it. So let’s keep at this.

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Erin Bliss

 

Date of Interview: November 6th, 2017

Name: Erin Bliss

Age: 28

Pronouns: She/Her and They/Them

Location: Chicago, IL

 

If you were an underwater creature, what  would you be?

I think I would definitely be an octopus. Because octopus are extremely intelligent animals, and they’re able to deduce color and form just by seeing exactly what is there without having to touch or feel anything. It’s really an interesting sense, and they must have such rich lives. It must be very scary too [laughter] because they’re just always hiding. They’ve gotten so good at it. It’s their life. Their main way that they survive and not get eaten by predators is if they can mimic and hid in any sort of seaweed or kelp or coral that they want. It’s crazy.

Does the extra sense appeal to you?

Yeah. Definitely. Being able to adapt that quickly and easily, effortlessly, to whatever comes your way as you’re going along would be– I feel like I work towards that anyway kind of in my life, but just to have it as an inherent skill would be why I would choose to be an octopus. Also, they have big brains, and it’s awesome [laughter]. They must be so smart. We’re trying to talk to aliens, but we don’t try to talk to octopus, which I think we should try harder to do. Dolphins too. Whales. All of them. Yeah. Anyway [laughter].

What are you passionate about?

A lot of things. It’s hard for me to narrow things down sometimes. Like, choosing my favorite things is kind of hard to do because I’m– I really love learning about the universe and absolutely everything, but also just absorbing knowledge generally. Becoming aware of yourself as a person in context of everything else is really important in my life. But then as far as my practice, like what I do in the world, that doesn’t really impact many other people. But I think it’s really– I’m really passionate about making things. Making tangible things in the world is kind of what I really love to do.

How does that manifest itself?

My passion for learning and my passion for making things kind of come together and me getting interested in certain materials and then working with them. Right now wood being the one I’m most interested in. Making things that nobody else has made before that are these beautiful art objects but also functional in a certain way. Making things that are functional or that have some sort of purpose besides just being cute is something that I enjoy. And also not being wasteful, making things that will last for a lifetime instead of a season so that it doesn’t just go in the trash, and your effort’s not wasted.

Does functionality play a role in your life outside of creating things?

Yeah. It kind of plays into my relationships and how I live. Like how I acquire things and what I have in my home. I’m not a really big shopper. I kind of have what I need, and that’s it. And with relationships, I give what I can. I take out of them what I can. But there’s not that much frivolous– well, I try [laughter] to not have that much frivolous stuff. There’s always intentions. There’s always a function to an action or an object.

What are your thoughts on relationships, platonic, sexual, and otherwise?

They’re great. I love people. I think that they’re really important. I don’t think I would be as motivated a person if I didn’t have people in my life that cared about me and believed in me. And those people are also reasons to keep doing what I’m doing and to keep wanting to be better and trying to function in society. I think relationships are important for my mental and physical health, and my motivation to live [laughter]. I might have that outside of relationships, but I don’t know. I’d have to see. It’d be an interesting experiment [laughter].

What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment?

Well, nothing immediately comes to mind. I think just working on bettering myself. It’s like a big long-form goal/life practice. I think that’s generally what my answer would be. I don’t have one big thing. It’s like a large conglomeration of small things adding up to something.

What is something you still struggle with?

I’m really hard on myself, so I still struggle with recognizing when I should just accept something and move on instead of dwelling on it and saying, “I should’ve done it better,” or, “I wasted time,” or, “I said the wrong thing.” I can get stuck in dwelling in the past.

Are there ways that you fight against it?

Yeah. I think about the universe [laughter]. I think about everything else outside of me, and then I remember that I’m being silly and that I can just go out and live my best life and leave that stuff behind.

Aim Ren Beland

 

Date of Interview: October 10th, 2017

Name: Aim Ren Beland

Age: 26

Pronouns: He/Him

Location: Chicago, IL

 

If you were an underwater creature, which would you be?

Any underwater creature? I’d be those little crabs that have no eyes that live next to the ventilation ducts in the ocean, the little white ones, you know, that feed off the weird phytoplankton. Maybe that one. They’ve adapted to live so uniquely to their environment, and they are so a part of their environment that if you remove them from that context, they literally cease to exist. And not just in that it kills them kind of way like a fish out of water, like a very literal– they can’t live in any other water or in any other space. It’s a very unique situation. I like that [laughter].

How often do you bathe or shower?

I shower twice a day, once in the morning to wash, once in the evening to rinse off from the day, and then in the winter, I bathe more because it’s like a warm comfort, a fetal womb kind of feeling, but otherwise I don’t bathe [laughter]. The wash-off and rinse-off is my way to decompress. I have a lot of anxiety, and I like to find little tactics to manage it that aren’t destructive to other people or myself. So I shower at the end of the day. You usually shower alone, so it’s your own space. You can’t do anything else besides just be in the water, so you have to tune into your head and your body, and then you have the good sensation of getting clean so that when you go to your bed or wherever you go to next, you’re really coming there fresh and revived.

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about the arts and whose voice gets represented in the arts. I’m from up north, and there’s a lot of focus about the environment and the arts there, but the arts community there is predominantly white, middle-class, and straight. I intentionally moved away from that community to Chicago because I felt there were no voices but the stated prior being represented in the kind of art I was seeing around me. So I came here to experience more narratives and grow and see the world through lenses of other people and hope it helps me and my work mature. To find missing pieces of my voice in others. I’m mostly a visual artist, so a lot of stuff I do is drawing or print. I’m really involved right now in the comic scene, so a lot of zines, and I love zines because they’re accessible. They’re usually extremely inexpensive to produce and buy. Almost anyone of any class, creed, whatever can partake in zine making, buying, sharing, so I find that’s a good way to get art into the masses and to spread various messages of not only the current things that are taking place in the world but also the human experience.

What is one of your main thoughts or memories when it comes to human experience?

Things that stand out in my mind about the human experience… I’m still young enough that my childhood plays a large role in my perception of the human experience, so a lot of it is the different things like nature versus nurture that impact you as a person, whether from your parents or the community you grew up in, or the academia that you become a part of– so that’s a significant role. Going into the larger role as an adult and taking on other narratives, I am always more conscious of the ways that the universities and the other infrastructure around us impact other people’s narrative, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

How do you think you impact your community’s narrative? If you do.

Yeah. I think everyone does, whether they intend to or not. And right now, I am still coming into this particular community, which is Chicago– queer Chicago, as relatively an outsider. I’m still kind of a newcomer. I’m queer, but I’m definitely not from Chicago. I don’t know the infrastructures as well as other people, so right now, I’m kind of taking a step back and trying to listen to other voices, especially those that came here before me who understand the infrastructures at hand. And most of my work right now is purely introspective because I feel like I can speak on myself. But as I become more part of the community, I feel more comfortable taking in the various narratives I’ve heard, and with the guide and consent of those voices– putting that back out into the community.

What does the word community mean to you?

Community, to me, means a large group of people working together for a common cause. And as a queer person living in Chicago, those roles are mostly– just having the rights to various infrastructures [laughter]. Just having rights to infrastructures with the acknowledgment of the various privileges we all hold, I am white and I am from a predominantly upper-middle-class background, so I’m aware of those privileges. And using those privileges for good, and not just feeling guilt because guilt doesn’t make change. So using the privileges I do have to foster the voices that are otherwise not heard or not seen. You know what I mean? Just taking it in and listening, and when you mess up, apologize.

What are our thoughts on relationships? Platonic, sexual, and familial, and do they overlap?

Yeah, tying back into my thoughts on community, I feel like community is built through those relationships, whether it be sexual, platonic, familial, I feel like the backbone of a community is good relationships of varying scales. And my current social circle, I try and build that sort of effect. I have this large circle of friends, lovers, roommates, coworkers, collaborators, and they all sit in this very misty area where they kind of switch roles in my life, from one to the other. But the people never disappear. Do you know what I mean? Other than an event of moving or some other grand thing, the people stay in my life no matter what space they’re occupying, and I like to manifest conversations and communities that help build those bonds instead of tearing them down because they don’t fit whatever need it is at the time.

What are you looking forward to?

What I’m looking forward to– it’s a mix of apprehension. So I’m young. I’m 26. The future is so way ahead of me. The world is a really scary place right now, so that means a lot of changes happening very quickly and it’s really easy to feel powerless. But at the same time, I feel very fortunate to be in a city like Chicago because the communities that do exist know their power and they know their worth, and they know what actions they have to take to see what kind of change they want to happen, and it’s not just talk it’s actual action. So that makes me super excited, and I feel super fortunate to be a part of that community in an artistic sense, and welcomed into it, and to be able to take a part in it.

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