Art vs. an Oasis in the Sespe Wilderness

I’ll admit I find modern art kind of baffling. I doubt I’m alone in this, since there’s no objective way to label a thing art or not art. But a new installation piece called Social Pool has me more than confused. It’s a puny bathing pool in the middle of the Mojave Desert, made all but inaccessible (on purpose!), and its very existence has me inexplicably peeved.

The artist hopes that visitors will have an epiphany about their role in a society dominated by consumerism, or something like that…that is, if they can even find the pool. And if they fail, well, that also says something about consumerism and the pursuit of luxury, supposedly.

Social Pool

Social Pool

One LAist writer dubbed Social Pool “obnoxious,” while another LAist contributor went to the installation and didn’t have anything snarky to say at all. Without going for myself, I can’t say for sure whether it’s a waste of water or whether it’s a worthwhile experiment. Because I suspect the former, I’m going to offer up one of my favorite places to take a dip–the Bear Creek Campground swimming hole–as an alternative to Social Pool, so that you don’t have to get lost in the Mojave Desert and die.

In order to sit in Social Pool, the visitor must first visit a museum to pick up the key and the GPS points, because the pool has a locking cover and no signs or markings to find it from the highway. Plus, it’s a considerable walk over the hot sand from the road to the pool’s location. Here’s another idea: Google directions to the Piedra Blanca trail head, in the Los Padres National Forest’s Sespe Wilderness Area, and drive there. Park for free. There’s a large trail map there–no need for GPS points. Follow the well-worn trail about 4 miles to Bear Creek campground, where you will find the swimming hole.

Bear Creek swimming hole

Most accessible pool goes to: Bear Creek Swimming Hole. While there’s a fun scavenger-hunt aspect to Social Pool, I don’t have the patience or flexibility to go to a museum to pick up a key that may or may not be checked out already. If it’s a challenge you’re after, reaching Bear Creek requires enough effort to make the swim feel well-deserved.

Social Pool is the size of a small hot tub and the rules allow only four occupants at once. At Bear Creek there is sufficient water for actual swimming, even in summer during a drought. There is room for you, a few friends, other hikers and their friends, and so on. You can sun your pale skin on a wide, flat rock, dive in when you get too hot, and repeat.

Bear Creek Campground

Best pool for swimming: Bear Creek, obviously.

Enough logistics! Now, do you like being encouraged to over-think your entertainment and leisure choices? Do you believe that total mental relaxation and detachment from society are for those who lack culture? Then Social Pool could be for you. The difficulty of accessing the installation is meant to provide the visitor opportunity to reflect on why she is willing to go through such pains. On the way to Bear Creek, you’re allowed to think about how pretty the wildflowers are, or about how you wish you’d brought stuff to make s’mores. And then, once in the water, you’re free to let your mind enter a blissful, meditative state, punctuated by the croaking of bullfrogs.

Best pool for unapologetic hedonists: Bear Creek. (You didn’t expect me to let Social Pool win anything, did you?)

And just because we’re talking about art today…

toad and plate

An arroyo toad and his plate

 

One thought on “Art vs. an Oasis in the Sespe Wilderness

  1. Sounds like a place to add to my list(Bear Creek that is). I just hope I can find it.

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