There Was Once a Secret Pool in the Mojave Desert


For a few years, there was an oasis in the Mojave Desert. It wasn't a natural wellspring, nor the fever dream of a weary traveler. It was an 11-foot-by-5-foot pool platform with clean, cool water that was open and available for use with one minor caveat: you had to find it first.

Social Pool was an art installation created by Austrian-born artist Alfredo Barsuglia. It was created in 2014 and existed as a self and audience-maintained work. To access the pool, interested parties first had to go to the MAK Center for Art and Architecture in West Hollywood (Barsuglia was in residence there in 2006) to retrieve one of four keys that permitted access to the pool. The staff also provided GPS coordinates and a few guidelines, according to LAist. Among them: don’t copy the key, bring it back within 24 hours, and replenish the pool with a gallon of fresh water.

Juliet Bennett Rylah of LAist didn’t reveal the exact location of Social Pool but wrote in her account that it was about two and a half hours from LA, and the journey included some unpaved roads and a bit of hiking. A solar-powered filter, a chlorination system, and handy skimmer kept the water cool and clean.

A pool-seeker couldn't call the center ahead of time to make sure a key was available, nor were they available to put on reserve, which was part of the point.

“I don't want people to go there and combine it with other things," Barsuglia told the Los Angeles Times. "The idea is that it all starts the moment you pick up the key. You then have the experience of getting there: of maybe sitting in traffic, of the walk in the desert, of enjoying the pool if you find it, then returning the key to the MAK Center. That is all part of the project."

The artist also told the paper that the piece was “about the effort people make to reach a luxury good," but Social Pool arguably also said something about the people who sought it out. It was enjoyed and preserved while it was up, but Barsuglia told LAist that even if it wasn’t, that would've been OK:

“I don't think that someone takes the effort to visit the pool to destroy it. Yes, I trust the participants, but as I mentioned before, if someone comes to destroy the work, it's sad but part of the project—of letting the project develop by itself, without my or anybody's influence. To sit in the pool and watch the scenery is outstanding. I think it's so nice that nobody would conceive the idea to damage it, but to prevent it for the next visitor. But you never know… we will see."

Between Social Pool, the Mojave Phone Booth, and the desert’s airplane graveyard, musical sand dunes, and abandoned mines, it seems like a wonderland of curiosities.

Note: Social Pool was closed to the public on September 30, 2014. This article has been edited to reflect the closure. 

Banner image via Vimeo.

[h/t Gizmodo]