Top image: Social Pool.
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? Most people would say yes. But, if a pool waits in a desert and no one is there to enjoy it, does it make a difference? Alfredo Barsuglia thinks so or, at least, the Austrian-born artist hopes so.
The Social Pool is Barsuglia's new art installation in conjunction with the MAK Center for Art and Architecture in West Hollywood, California, where he was a fellow last year. Open until September 30, the Social Pool is a 55-square-foot oasis hidden in the Mojave Desert and accessible only with GPS coordinates and a key which must be obtained from MAK. Visitors have to really want to check it out because the Pool is tucked far, far away (somewhere between Apple Valley and Joshua Tree) and requires "several hours of driving from Los Angeles, plus a willingness to walk a long distance to reach the pool from the nearest road."
Like Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty on the northern shores of the Great Salt Lake or Walter de Maria's Lightning Field in New Mexico, the Social Pool's description notes that it "was conceived of as an experience encompassing a potentially transformative journey, a promise of relaxation, the peace of remoteness, all while staying tuned in." And that it is "a complex replica of the contradictions and ideology of contemporary society, where remoteness from others and quietude are luxuries for the ever-communicating city-dweller."
Practically speaking, the project includes a solar panel-powered filter and chlorination system, and visitors are asked to replenish the Pool with one gallon of water upon their departure. Keeping the location secret is another obligation bestowed upon those who dare to make the trek.
Of pools, in general, Barsuglia told the Los Angeles Times, "I'm interested in the way that these are often integrated into the architecture of a house. And, often, people will have a pool, but they don't even get into it. They just like to show that they have it. It shows they don't have to think about water."
And as California continues to suffer through the worst drought in its history, the point he makes with this installation is crystal clear: "When you are there by the pool, I think you really understand what a luxury this is and you start to ask yourself if it's really worth it. Perhaps some people might feel that this is not something they need to do."