"Social Pool" Makes a Splash

An Austrian artist has created a hidden swimming pool in the Mojave Desert as part of a social experiment/art installation. Alfredo Barsuglia, a 2006 resident at the MAK Center for Art and Architecture in West Hollywood, opened the installation—dubbed “Social Pool”—in late June.

The best part of the small pool that sits a few hours outside of LA is the adventure that surrounds it; it’s hidden and it takes a few steps to access it.

Step 1: Go to the MAK Center and request one of four keys from the center’s personnel.

Step 2: If one is available, you will be given the key with the understanding that you will return the key in 24 hours and not make a copy, nor disclose the location to anyone. Be prepared with a driver’s license that will be photocopied as a means of insurance.

Step 3: You’ll be given a piece of paper giving you the coordinates to the pool. You’ll also be asked to take a gallon of fresh water to take with you to the pool to replenish any evaporated pool water.

Social pool could be seen as a commentary on luxury and how far people will go to get it, says Barsuglia. “I wanted to build a man-made luxury that is in great contrast to the area around,” the artist said. “Water and pools are a status symbol, and it’s interesting to see how far people will drive to get to it.”

Not to mention they’re leaving an area that is not exactly swimming pool-averse. One has only to fly over the LA area to see the obvious ubiquity of swimming pools in the Southern California area. So why go on a 2.5 hour drive and hike into the dirty desert to swim?

Writer Juliet Bennett Rylah visited the pool with her friends. Called it an adventure. After all, it’s better than the alternative: “I’d rather go searching for things in the desert than go to bottomless mimosa brunch on Sunday.”

Rylah and some of her friends spent the afternoon searching for the pool, which was relatively easy seeing as how simple it is for your average smartphone to pinpoint a location based on GPS coordinates. Without giving too much away, Rylah tells LAist.com readers that there is driving on unpaved roads involved as well as a short hike. But once you’re in the general vicinity, it should be easy to find because “the pool is small but it is also glaring white,” she writes.

The cover is locked (hence the key) and has a solar panel on top of the cover along with a small message from the artist: “Please respect and preserve the artwork. Thank you.”

Rylah remarked how surprised she was at the cleanliness of the pool; previous visitors had obviously done their part in keeping it clean and useable for the next key holders. When asked whether he was worried people might find and destroy the installation Barsuglia said “I don’t think that someone takes the effort to visit the pool to destroy it. [If] someone comes to destroy the work, it’s sad but part of the project.”

Spoken like a true artist.

The water is cool and refreshing, particularly after spending time in the arid desert. And when visitors are done, they skim the water, dump in the gallon they took along with them, and lock up. Barsuglia says he’s surprised by the attention the installation has already received and was prepared for just about any reception. When all is said and done, it’s about those visiting social pool that give importance to it.

“The participants give the project a meaning. And if nobody participates, then that’s a meaning too.”

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