The representation of swimming pools as cultural products
09 May 2019

The representation of swimming pools is a “must” element in the arts, our heritage and also in the social sciences. To make the ramifications of this fascination for the control of water more understandable, sociology researcher Anne-Sophie Gomez gave a talk during the Pool Summit at Piscine Global Europe 2018. Discover a summary of her conference “My pool, my work of art”!

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Discover 10 fun facts about swimming pools!

The Pool Summit event, another approach to Pools & Spas.

At Piscine Global Europe 2018, the Pool Summit brought together over 60 major international federations and manufacturers, all top swimming pool market decision makers. This important international meeting provided a different, less technical and more prospective vision of the Pools & Spas sector. It was an opportunity for federations, Majors Club members and journalists to take an overview and discover a more sociological approach to swimming pools.

The symbolism of water in the social sciences

The interaction between man and fresh water, and more precisely its control, has always punctuated the evolution of humanity. This subject, which has attracted several historians and anthropologists, has 5 main topics:

  • Source of life: water the giver of life and regeneration. It is fundamental in the painting The Birth of Venus by Botticelli.
  • Youth: the mythical Fountain of Youth has come down through the ages, both in pictures, like that of Lucas Cranach in 1546 and more recently in advertising for table waters.
  • Therapeutic value: in holy water or spas, water cares for the body and/or the spirit. An idea that persists as hydrotherapy and is a powerful tourist attraction as in Greece!
  • Fascination and terror: water generates life – or destroys it, as in shipwrecks (represented for example in the painting The Raft of the Medusa by Géricault) or Noah’s Flood. Man has always been fascinated by water’s untameable force!
  • Image in advertising: last but not least, water is used as a marketing argument to evoke freshness, purity and vivacity.

Interestingly, the symbolism of water is common to all cultures.

The strong bond between pools and cultural heritage

In films, plays, literature and even strip cartoons, pools are used as scenery (and even as entities in themselves!) in a host of disciplines, cultures and continents. This universality makes it possible for artists and spectators to share an experience, several examples of which were discussed at Pool Summit, including:

  • The Water-born ballet, created in 2007 by choreographer Carolyn Carlson and staged in the swimming pool of Bruay-la-Buissière, welcomed professional dancers, Bruay Academy students, theater studio members, groups in insertion and observers from the town.
  • The Andre Diligent museum of art and industry, installed in an Art Deco swimming pool in Roubaix created by the architect Albert Baert in the twenties, is now home to applied and fine arts collections.
  • Various “swimming pool movie” projections for example in the Butte aux Cailles pool in Paris, where bathers can swim while enriching their cinematographic culture.

Check out our selection of cult films featuring pools!

Promoting the representation of swimming pools in the arts

During the Pool Summit Anne-Sophie Gomez evoked the lack of transversal databases dedicated to the representations of swimming pools. To decompartmentalize the swimming pool, a virtual intermedial, international and collaborative catalog in a dedicated database was created in 2017 - as well as a Twitter account. These tools are sure to attract all pool professionals!

To facilitate the diffusion of the imagery related to this leisure activity, Anne-Sophie Gomez plans to create a museum dedicated to the artistic representations of swimming pools with permanent collections and temporary exhibitions. A project is currently under discussion in the region of Clermont-Ferrand, France!

The next Pool Summit will be held at Piscine Global Europe 2020 from November 17 to 20, 2020 at Lyon-Eurexpo, France


© Photo credit: Lucas Cranach - Der Jungbrunnen

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