• A Cold Hole, 2018

    Cold-water plunges—on holy days, as viral stunts, or as solitary strategies for personal reset—have been described by participants as spiritually and psychically cleansing, effective in staving off illness, and as a conduit to bolster strength, alertness, and vigor. Shinto Kanchu Misogi rituals in Japan promote purification and good fortune, Finnish avanto swimming aims to spiritually revitalize and physically rejuvenate, and corporate-sponsored polar plunges raise money for ALS, The Special Olympics, and other charitable organizations.

    Cold-water plunges’ long history of participants includes Apache leader Geronimo, who employed cold-water immersion to prepare boys for manhood and battle; biologist Charles Darwin, who sought “the water cure” after other treatments failed to heal his chronic illness; and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who chose to participate in the Eastern Orthodox tradition of plunging into cold water on Epiphany—reenacting Christ’s baptism in the Jordan River—rather than watch President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

    In a cold-water plunge, the body is thrust into an extreme state: the shock overrides the body’s automatic response. The initial gasp on submersion reflects the sharply-drawn breath experienced during sudden death, sleep arrhythmia, and birth. The physical stress disrupts and alters thought processes, inducing a flight response that individuals must meet with vigorous determination in order to endure.

    Taryn Simon transports a cold water plunge into the gallery, inviting participants—performers and members of the public—to seek the uncertain opportunity for a quick fix. Participation must be sought out deliberately, and occurs at unannounced times each day. In A Cold Hole, the private impulse towards repair and empowerment collides with public action, as viewers observe the activations through a cinemascopic aperture in the dark adjacent gallery.