18 October 2019

wicked individualism #1 — swimming pools

Via Arts & Letters Daily, I discover a review* of two books on swimming pools.

The following extract, referring to infinity pools, reminds me of the popular claim that we live in the "age of the selfie", allegedly a time of heightened "individualism" or "solipsism", usually meant pejoratively. The implication is that we used to live in a time of greater communitarian values — a nostalgia myth that has been around since at least the eighteenth century.


We now live in the age of the infinity pool. The bright curves, sugary tints and gay social melee of the 20th century have given way to darker, squarer tubs where the edge of the pool is designed (at least in theory) to vanish into the horizon.

The jolly bourgeois riot of collective public bathing has yielded to an immersive solipsism at once outward and inward: the infinity pool bather often looks away from others to snap a selfie showcasing the view behind them.

Kelly is one of the few humans to appear in Splash, photographed standing at the edge of a Balinese infinity pool, gazing out to sea, her back to the camera. Hers is a voyeuristic album of an invisible elite's sparkling private paradises, utopias whose very form disavows social context.

"Disavowing social context"? Sounds faintly immoral.

Technology changes, as do the goods and experiences that are available; human nature, not so much. Commentators on individualism like to focus on the areas where people seem to be doing things more by themselves than they used to, and tend to ignore other areas that have become more crowdified.


* James Delbourgo, 'From Here to Infinity', reviewing:
Splash: The Art of the Swimming Pool by Annie Kelly, and
The Swimming Pool in Photography by Francis Hodgson.