‘I Ditched Class and I Took a Bath‘ documents Agathe Rousselle’s two week vacation in San Francisco following a breakup and personal crisis at home. The careening narrative follows Rousselle as she walks and parties her way to some inner peace, and ceiba’s excellent production reinforces the narrative and puts viewers in the center of it all.
Continuing their focus on high quality and engaging formats, I Ditched Class is the first publication from ceiba editions in 2017. The book is presented unbound, the loose pages housed in a gatefold cover that is sealed by a strip of paper stuck to the front and back. At first, I was a bit confused about how to open it, and I hated to cut the tape, but it just had to be done.
I’m reminded a bit of David Allan Harvey’s (based on a true story), but the comparison is superficial at best. While both are largely unbound and deal with some walking and some nightlife, where DAH documents many sides of life in Rio de Janeiro, Rousselle’s focus is more internal.
From the poems and notes scribbled throughout the book, a breakup appears to have precipitated Rousselle’s breakdown and flight to San Francisco. I remember the feeling, but never had the resources or courage to travel halfway around the world for an escape. I’m glad to be older, wiser, perhaps more jaded, definitely married, and otherwise beyond all that now. I had my ways of dealing with it (booze, primarily), and Rousselle did similarly, though on a somewhat grander scale. A synopsis (sadly missing from the internets as of February 2020) from Marissa Leitman, who hosted Rousselle during her visit, is worth quoting at length:
In the spring of 2016 a friend of mine asked if a girl named Agathe could stay with me for a few nights while she visited the Bay Area from Paris. Unbeknownst to me Agathe had booked the ticket on a whim amidst a nervous break down, without knowing anything about San Francisco or anyone who lived there. She ended up staying with me for two weeks. Seeing Agathe revitalized by San Francisco reminded me of how special it is and her photos encapsulate how we oscillated between exhibitionism and intimacy.
I texted her one day telling her I ditched class and took a bath… Every day she would go on a long walk and at night we would go out. I Ditched Class and I Took a Bath is not just a documentation of a vacation, it’s Agathe’s own personal exploration of a new landscape, a look toward new relationships and a chance for her to abandon the disillusionment that haunted her before she arrived to San Francisco.
All the walking, parties, scribbled thoughts and poems all seem to have helped: a sort of anxiety present in the beginning of the book gives way to some uneasy peace by the end, and this reflected in the experience of flipping through the book. Juggling the double gatefold cover and stiff, unbound pages is a something of a struggle, peeling the layers apart to see the whole picture, and then trying to put it all back together again, and it works with the content to create an event of sorts.
The story is classic and compelling, if a bit juvenile, the photography is solid, and the presentation works. Overall, I give it a solid 4 stars.
To be honest, I Ditched Class and I Took a Bath is probably not “for” me: the words and images appear to be deeply personal, and there’s a bunch of stuff in it that speaks to the female experience. The content and presentation are engaging, though, and I keep coming back. At time of writing copies remain available at the ceiba store.