Daniel Mann and Eitan Efrat
Wellness has an uncanny past, as one sees in the new installation by Daniel Mann and Eitan Efrat. Through films and objects, it tells of a Heilstollen (healing tunnel) near the southern Austrian spa town of Bad Gastein, originally dug with forced labor in 1942 by the Nazis in an effort to find rumored deposits of gold. Instead of gold they discovered temperatures of over forty degrees Celsius and high concentrations of radon, a radioactive gas assumed to be beneficial to the treatment of rheumatism and other ailments. After World War II this unusual mineshaft was repurposed into a therapeutic facility that is still in use, even if there are no proven health benefits. Mann and Efrat move beyond the sublime beauty of the Austrian mountains—whose glorification classically stands for national spirit, whiteness, and, possibly, fascism—to explore and subvert them as cultural and physical material. Through shifts in scale from microscopic imagery of the body to the enormity of the mountain terrain, they challenge the body-landscape relations and the reverent weaponization of nature particular to Nazi biopolitics. Descending into Bad Gastein’s therapeutic mine shaft, they dig ever deeper into the landscape’s geological layers, opening the dominant timescales of modern history to much wider temporalities.