Essay by Michael Mackenzie
German spa facilities are sites at which one can apparently be cured of chronic illnesses. Whether they date from the nineteenth century, the post-war period, or today, these places are fast becoming leisure-time oases. In a new series, Lucinda Devlin has photographed the deserted interiors of these bathhouses, framing clinically sterile rooms meant for massages, baths, examinations and relaxation. These empty zones are silent testimonials to a healing industry that is thoughtfully tailored to people, even while its equipment subjugates them completely. Tellingly, they recall the rooms of Devlin's earlier series: the operating theaters, mortuaries and autopsy rooms in Corporal Arenas and the U.S. execution chambers in The Omega Suites. With her coolly remote photographs, Devlin presents the relationships between people and institutions, and then shows how certain facilities depersonalize those relationships. Water Rites conveys an insightful view into the--typically German?--mentality and source of our institutionalized humanity.