An exhilarating dance of spots of color and traces of wear and decomposition. The abstract earth-colored texture is reminiscent of Stan Brakhage´s work. But wait:
A live image shimmers from the background. A woman, dressed in bathing suit and cap, swims laps nonchalantly. The easy-listening music of the soundtrack lends a pleasant atmosphere to the scene. But this afternoon idyll does not last long: The soundtrack abruptly turns ominous, the film becomes a bad trip. The woman is about to be drawn into the gorge of a menacing growth of amorphous shapes which increases in size rapidly. But then the deus ex machina intervenes with a protecting hand. Vertical destabilization of the picture makes it swing and jump wildly, apparently this direct interaction is the only way to save her. Her husband, who has been filming the scene from a porch swing, dives into the pool to help. And disappears. Johannes Hammel adheres to an esthetic strategy frequently employed by the avant-garde: extremely self-reflexive post-processing of found footage. At the same time he employed an established motif often varied down through the history of art.
A considerable number of artists have employed swimmers in their works, such as the Impressionists, Picasso and Matisse. Hammel´s affinity for painting is made obvious by Bathers in a particular way: in the cross-hatching, scratches and crusts which are apparently meant to resemble craquelure or severely damaged paintings.
The Bathers is intended to be a diverting etude which poses enduring questions concerning decay and transience, in particular with regard to the material employed as a foundation. As a vacation film it belongs to a genre which has usually remained hidden: in private possession, collecting dust in living rooms, wasting away, in the process of disappearing.
Translation: Steve Wilder
Old vacation films are subjected to decay. Decay of both the film material and that of the memory. The Bathers makes this decay and process of forgetting visible. In the same way that the medium decomposes, the memory of what it showed fades.
The two protagonists of an old holiday movie are exposed to the chemical disintegration of the film material: A woman swimming in a pool is swept to and fro by the film projector. In vain, she tries to hold on to the diving board. Her husband, who is watching the scene from a swing seat, dives into a sea of abstract, washed-out film grains and finally disappears in it.
(Viennale Catalog, 2003)