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:; or the MCAGCC Public Affairs Office at 760-830-6213; email:

Give ’em hell.

¶ 2014·08·13