Alfredo Barsuglia: Social Pool

  • Panel Discussion

1137 S Cochran Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90019

Artist Alfredo Barsuglia joined MoMA curator Stephanie Weber and MAK  Center Director Kimberli Meyer to discuss his project, Social Pool

About Social Pool

Alfredo Barsuglia’s Social Pool is an eleven-by-five-feet wide pool in the Southern California desert, open for anybody to use. White, unadorned and geometric, it is formally reminiscent of a Minimalist sculpture. Its location, on the other hand, nods toward the related US-American phenomenon of large-scale Land Art installations in deserts around the American West, like, most notably, Walter de Maria’s The Lightning Field in New Mexico, Robert Smithson’s famed Spiral Jetty, or Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels in Utah. Conceived in the 1970s, these works bore a critical response to and refusal of both the increasing commodification and institutionalization of art and the rampant destruction of the ecological environment. While Barsuglia’s endeavor does share a palpable and explicit idealism as such, the work simultaneously embodies the massive socio-economic changes that have taken place in the last forty years. It thus understands itself as the product of an economy in which privacy and immateriality have been fully commodified.

The title of Barsuglia’s work alone attests to his acute awareness that Social Pool might operate in ways more similar to a yoga lesson or a vacation away from it all than as an enlightened dialog with an enigmatic object. Translating the societal desire for seclusion and individual enjoyment into the layout of the installation, Barsulglia designed a bisected structure whose size only just allows for one or two people to stand or sit on either of its sides (appropriately, a bench is built into each half). The walls of each pool segment are so high that the seated person cannot easily see whoever sits in the adjacent space, despite the fact that they are just next-door. In a deliberate over-determination of the work’s suggested idiosyncrasies, Barsuglia stipulated that only one person or small party at a time can use the pool, and for no longer than 24 hours.

Social Pool is a sculpture that’s a bath, an artwork both literally immersive and forcibly relaxing – concurrently, it is a pool that has enough cultural clout to deserve a press release published by a significant cultural institution (not to mention that it was built by an emerging artist!). Astutely intertwining the semantic constructs of contemporary art, the pool (the symbol of carefree wealth, even more so in the desert), relaxation and nature, Social Pool 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.

—Text by Stephanie Weber 

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