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Welcome to Black Bania

November 11, 2009

Black Bania is a smoking hot room on a frozen lake. A tipi will house a sauna room available for use by the public on a bring-your own-towel basis and provide additional space for restorative sauna related activity. We will explore the rich culture of communal sweat bathing referencing Finnish saunas, Russian banias, Roman baths and Turkish hammams, Korean zzimzilbangs, and Native American sweat lodges by providing a space for a series of intimate performances, intellectual exchange, and wholesome physical cleansing.

The Black Bania will be part of Art Shanty Projects, located on Medicine Lake, just west of Minneapolis, MN. Public hours are 10 am to 5 pm on Saturdays and Sundays between January 16 and February 7, 2010.

Black Bania opens to the public on Jan 16 with our first in a series of Riot Act Readings. Click the Riot Act Readings tab for more details.

Hello Baniates

August 16, 2012

My first attempt to post a link to video that is posted on my FB.  Hope it works.  Let me know.

This is the first day of setting up the Tipi/Sauna, on Jan 13th.  More to follow.


August 16, 2012


August 16, 2012


August 16, 2012


February 4, 2010

Snowy Night

February 2, 2010

The third weekend was splendid. Freezing. Clear. Full moon. Thousands of people.
It is my third Monday night in the tipi. It has been snowing all day. The tipi is extra warm for it. And the sauna even warmer. While making dinner (of penne with bacon and tomato sauce) I have accidentally heated the room to 115F. Lauren and I start shedding our winter layers down to our t shirts. There must be at least another 6 inches of snow outside since this morning. Tom’s hockey sticks and Viking shields still festoon my tipi. Yes friends, it has been a storied week of sea chanties (shanties?), bearded ladies, radio interviews, a visit from to men in orange jumps suits who lifted me by my feet over their heads to form a human pyramid (thus saving my life)…and Viking ball, Ice Golf, wood chopping poets, and a friendly visit from the ice police: “Is that your rental car parked in front of the tipi?” “Yes officer, is that okay?” “No problem, just making sure all is fine out here.” Then they rode off on their golf cart/snowmobile.
One more week, I’m just getting to like this.

Bania in the round!

February 1, 2010

Day Two

January 18, 2010

I got to the tipi 15 minutes before opening bell. The stove lit up like a dream: three carefully placed matches; a good blazing fire of the wood scraps from building the sauna. The sauna was 135F by the time the first visitor stooped thru the tipi door.
Hundreds of men, women, children and dogs all day.
Tomorrow will be my first day out there alone. I’ll be able to sweep out the sawdust, hang the velour liner, and cozy it up.

Day One

January 17, 2010

I’d like to say that everything went without a hitch but that would inaccurate. As some of you know, I had to leave the rest of the Black Bania team for few days to carry on while I returned to New York for the installation of my show, First Supper at Josee Bienvenu Gallery. When I came back to the ice at 6 pm on Friday, it was dark and cold and five brave men had been struggling for two and a half days to get a square room to fit in a round tipi on a frozen lake. The poles were in place but there was a fit problem with the skin (the footprint of the tipi had shrunk considerably for planned and unplanned reasons); there wasn’t a flashlight in sight; and my warm clothes and snow boots were locked inside the truck along with the keys to that truck. Even on the warmest days, when then sun goes down the temperature drops radically and it tickles a sense of panic in even the best of us.
Judi, the newest member of the team, went to get flashlights and hardware. Thomas called Amex for a locksmith and I squatted on the cold ice re-jiggering grommets and position of the tipi skin as best I could. Shawn’s paents had a pizza delivered to the lake. The early shift left when the skin got clamped together. And the walls were sawn down to fit by hand (the sawzall batteries were drained by then). By 11 pm we were out of batteries, certain vital hardware, and the desire climb ladders in cold and wind, and decided that we should get an early start in the morning before the adoring public showed up a 10 am.
Judi and I were the only customers at the Home Depot when it opened on Saturday morning, but it had nothing we wanted. We went to a Menards instead where a helpful salesperson scratched his head at my odd list of parts. Then Rik and Judi and I headed off to the ice with a clear headed mission: stop the skin from flapping around and make the wooden room really hot.
It was nearly noon before Rik was stoking the stove. Minnesotans had been swarming the ice for nearly two hours pulling their infants in sleds and peaking into our tipi with words of awe and encouragement.
By 2:30 pm the first of the Riot Act Readings was presented on our front deck to a mezmerized crowd of at least a hundred people and a several hundred passersby. (We’ll post video later.)
By 5:30 it was dark and most of the public had left the lake. Dwayne and I sat in our now warm, quiet tipi a bit shell-shocked but very happy. Day one was done.
The hundreds of people who had visited the sauna and tipi in those few hours was astonishing and rewarding. Most people just peeked in stood a minute in the sauna and left. One woman took off her socks and had her husband dry then over the stove with a stick. I’ll post Dwayne’s photos as soon as I can.
We locked up the tipi as best I could and went for a shower and a hot bowl of soup at Judi’s. I start sleeping in the tipi on Monday.
The big work is over. Now it’s all about fun. This is what the Black Bania Team does best: have fun.

Day two and another thousand Minneasotans in a couple hours.


January 11, 2010

It’s been miserably cold but somehow we are making progress. All the materials are sitting on the lake awaiting assembly. We are expecting warmer weather–in the mid 20s–for the next few days.

The last component, and star of the show, the sauna will be built tonight. Wednesday will be a big lake day–getting the platform together and the tipi erection.

But I fly back to New York today to install my exhibition “First Supper” that opens on Jan. 14. I won’t be on hand for all this excitement. I’ve passed the baton to my wonderful team. They have been incredible this past week working in the ice and snow and the colder than outside conditions in the Soap Factory. I haven’t known most of them very long but they are all the kinda guys who get things done while being good company too.

Last night we had a meeting about the coming week and at the end we made a scale model of the tipi so we could talk through the process.

Here’s a picture of the practice tipi.
One inch=one foot.