text /// Chris Rusak

Social Pool and the Desperate Swimmers

Soon after my review of Alfred Barsuglia’s Social Pool was published at San Francisco Arts Quarterly, I began to receive poorly written emails lamenting the inability to get the key, or now a reservation, to visit the pool, appended with some plea to reveal its location — ahem, share its location — and an accompanying justification of why I should oblige. This strikes me as odd, considering my opinion of the pool was quite negative (and remains one of the only negative critical reviews out there), having noted its whole disregard for the sensitive desert environment and the fact that visiting the pool is a poorly fabricated waste of natural resources. But, I’m not really surprised, either. People salivate under the allure of masterfully branded experiences.

To save anyone else the trouble of having to outline a plea, type it out formally, and click send, I’ll just answer you all here instead: No.

My recommended alternative is to contact the artist, directly complain about the restrictions of the project since he is the director of a private pool with a strictly controlled membership offered only to a privileged minority, detail your grievances in full, and please stop bothering members of this special club, like myself, with your desperate thirsts for art.

Or just go to the Y.

Followup: This morning I received an email from the unannounced guests I encountered when I visited Social Pool, with whom I’ve stayed in touch about the issues of military occupations in the Johnson Valley. My contact informed me of two things:

First, Social Pool was broken into. These photos show how someone wedged apart the track from the lid and frame, presumably to jimmy it open, cracking the structure in the process. This damage was not there during my visit. The pool is reportedly in poor condition, according to my contact:

lid was not open, but it was pushed up & not centered. We did push it back & it’s totally jacked up. I’m sure it used to open smoothly, now its crooked. Water was super dirty. It’s like they forced it open and took a bath.

Alfredo Barsuglia Social Pool damaged

Alfredo Barsuglia Social Pool damaged

Alfredo Barsuglia Social Pool damaged, dirtied and with muddy water

Photos courtesy anonymous source.

In this last picture you can see the two compartments of Social Pool: the upper empty side which was kept empty as a conceptual part of the project, and the lower side which depicts dirtied, almost greenish-muddy water. This is in high contrast to the mostly clean pool I visited.

Given the hysterically viral response to the project and its heavily controlled access policies, the fact that someone broke into it is as unsurprising as the pleas for directions to its location.

More importantly in the email, though, was my contact alerting me to an upcoming meeting where public comment of the military’s usage of the precious Johnson Valley will be sought. This is from an alert sent by the Blue Ribbon Coalition, a grassroots organization trying to preserve open land for public use:

Representatives from the Bureau of Land Management and the Marine Corps will host a Resource Management Group meeting about the changes in land use in the Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area at the Lucerne Valley Community Center on August 16, 2014 from 1-3 PM.

The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the future locations of the Marine’s company objective areas within the Shared Use Area for military training in accordance with Military Land Withdrawals Act of 2013 (Public Law 113-66).

Input from State agencies, Off-Highway Vehicle and other recreation interest groups, and environmental advocacy groups as well as the public in general are encouraged and welcomed to attend.

The Lucerne Valley Community Center is located at 33187 Old Woman Springs Road, Lucerne Valley, CA. For additional information, contact the Bureau of Land Management, Barstow Field Manager, at 760-252-6004; email: ksymons@blm.gov; or the MCAGCC Public Affairs Office at 760-830-6213; email: SMBPLMSWEBPAO@usmc.mil.

Give ‘em hell.

Supermoon, Santa Barbara

Supermoon, Santa Barbara, Chris Rusak 2014

Supermoon, Santa Barbara
Digital photograph, 2014


Camera, Chris Rusak 2014

Digital photograph, 2014

Heidegger and Art.

Several months ago, Big Red & Shiny published my essay, “Heidegger on Art as Phenomenon and Light,” which details the philosopher’s purview of art in service to his existential / phenomenological ontology. I explicate his frequently misunderstood text, “The Origin of the Work of Art,” often mistook as a propositional aesthetic theory, and correlate it with several contemporary works of art to demonstrate the usefulness of his ideas, as well as utilize it to assess the state of contemporary art in general. More importantly, however, is the demonstration of how light as an organic element bridges the domains of art and philosophy:

When fluorescent light bulbs suddenly fail, especially in a room illuminated with only a single tube, a new world slowly opens up. No longer useful, the bulb itself is now merely a thing. It’s just there. This new world is dark. It is quieter. The constant faint hum of electricity buzzing through a tube dissipates. This world is confusing since we cannot see without light. This world is perilous as we slam our foot into the unseen tire iron haphazardly jutting into the path we now take, hoping to escape a very dark garage. The hazardous, confusing truth of the world, one that had been covered up underneath light, now makes itself known.

Swimming in the Mojave Desert? Alfredo Barsuglia’s pool.

Over the July Fourth holiday weekend I usually get away from the city and go out to quiet parts of the land, and a recent new tradition shared with a good friend is to set course toward the Mojave Desert for some arid relaxation and restorative night sky gazing as a campfire smokes beside us. This year the plan was a little different, the result of Carolina Miranda’s article in the Los Angeles Times on artist Alfredo Barsuglia‘s Social Pool, which is an actual pool-and-journey-as-art work sunk amidst sand and brush. I wrote an essay for the San Francisco Arts Quarterly about my experience:

If you can stop, stop and silence yourself, stop your thoughts and just look around, stop first at the edge of the road and realize how fast life is elsewhere, and you’ll begin to realize for how long you’ve already been swimming. And that was a little scary. Far scarier, though, may be the realization that you are suddenly being approached by people who you did not expect to be present in the middle of nowhere.

Read more here: A Journey to Alfredo Barsuglia’s “Social Pool”

Also — Miranda posts an update to her original piece, in which I provide her a few quotes of my experience: “Worth a GPS detour? Visitors report on the Mojave’s ‘Social Pool’