Saturday, July 5, 2014

Alfredo Barsuglia's "Social Pool"

I have thought about Carolina Miranda's Los Angeles Times review on Barsuglia's pool nearly everyday since hearing about it. First a little information about the work (via the above link):

"The piece... consists of a single, diminutive swimming pool located somewhere in the southern Mojave Desert between Joshua Tree and Apple Valley. The public is allowed to use the pool, but in order to do so visitors need the key that unlocks it (it is kept covered) as well as the GPS coordinates. Only once you have the key, which is kept at the MAK Center, are you given the coordinates."

Also note that viewers are asked to bring a gallon of water to replenish it (if they find it) and it originally held 800 gallons.

Though I love the idea of creating an object one needs to search for in the desert (Michael Heizer's Double Negative for instance), I oppose this artwork being the one to find. First of all, it remains a beautiful, luxurious item in the initial photographs but over the course of time, it is impossible for it to hold these standards (a clear, full body of water devoid of insects, sand, and the presence of other people). Sand, dead scorpions floating on the surface, graffiti, attempts to break in despite not having the key - this is what I envision lying ahead for this artwork. Why? Because this is what happens when an artwork representing a luxurious item is left in the wilderness. The level of lavishness vanishes quickly.

Secondly, when I think of the pool as luxury item in the California desert, it does not look this, rather this, this, and this. None of these examples are conceivable to recreate in Barsuglia's case (albeit one exists in paintings not in real life). Barsuglia's pool is a postage size sample, asking the viewer to imagine something far greater than what is presented. It is opulent when compared to its current surroundings (considering the effort it took to create in such a remote location) but it falls short. In other words, this object is not luxurious or enticing enough to spend a day searching for it. I hate saying that because so much of my life is devoted to finding pristine bodies of water in my own artwork and it seems natural that I would gravitate to this.

I imagine a New Yorker cartoonist having a field day with a parched, crawling couple stumbling across this installation. In that respect, it becomes comical. If it is supposed to question our concept of luxury, environmental concerns, and consumption it does so but I can't help wonder what it would look like if Jeff Koons made it instead.

The work is available to find / see through 30 September 2014.

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