Somewhere in the depths of California's Mojave Desert, in a location identifiable only by guarded GPS coordinates, is a tiny pool.
This pool, imagined by Austrian artist Alfredo Barsuglia, is open to the public. All one needs to do is inquire at the MAK Center for Art and Architecture in West Hollywood about the longitude and latitude of the artificial oasis, plopped down in the middle of the arid spaces.
But don't forget to ask for the key, as well.
It will open the pool's cover, unveiling the four-foot by 12-foot body of water for just 24 hours to any one person or small party at a time. Painted white to stand out against the sprawling sand that fills the deserted horizon, the minuscule bit of paradise stands as a Minimalist sculpture abandoned by its maker so that adventurous nomads can experience a moment of pure, tranquil bliss.
Barsuglia's contemporary sanctuary is titled "Social Pool," not so subtly hinting at the piece's idealistic undertones. The trek through the roadless region is as much a part of the retreat, as you journey into the remote void to relax inside an art project. No doubt the artist has big expectations for how you'll bide your time. Like ponder what it means for an artist to hide gallons of water in a drought-riddled state?
Yet the word "social" hints at the transformation the pool will undergo once visitors flock to the luxurious pitstop. The obviously absurd creation replicates a symbol of excess, and will no doubt spark an entirely exclusive Instagram hashtag. Barsuglia recognizes that the "inconvenience" of getting there juxtaposes nicely with the expected escape of being there. Like all bold (semi-)public artwork, "Social Pool" is subversive, goading its waders to contemplate broader issues.
In this case, the commercialization of art.
"The work embodies the massive socio-economic changes that have taken place in the last forty years," a description of the project reads. "It thus understands itself as the product of an economy in which privacy and immateriality have been fully commodified... For many a consumer, art is expected to operate according to the principles of the service economy rather than following humanist ideals of intellectual or moral stimulus and education."
Whether the dramatic appearance of the pool will outweigh the artist's intentions, or the ridiculous idea of a desert pool will overshadow any deep thoughts on the consumer economy, is yet to be seen. We can only speculate until we get a chance to wield the sacred key.
"Will it make viewers, who've had to hike through the desert clutching a gallon of water, more enlightened about the way we manage humanity's most precious resource?" LA Times' Carolina A. Miranda asked. "I sure hope so, especially the city managers who insist on planting grass all over a region it wasn't meant to grow."
In case you're planning your trip to "Social Pool" already, note that you'll need to bring a gallon of water per person to replenish the pool. And if you're an East Coaster lamenting your inability to visit "Social Pool," check out New York's take on pools of the future here.