Man action (2007)

The swimming pool: utopian symbol of success, power and desire. As a symbol connecting architecture with desire, there is surely none more potent than that of the swimming pool. Desire is embedded into the architecture, into the water, and into the swimmers themselves. But in this work, it is night time and this pool is empty – there is to be no swimming in this pool, no watery abandonment, no Freudian-return-to-the-womb, no flirting with the sensuousness of water-as-nature-as-female. This pool becomes a nocturnal symbol not of desire but of structure, order and control.

Into this terrain strides a lone male figure, be-suited and purposeful  with a beating heart sound track as a reminder of corporeal flesh and desire. On his knees, and in a playful riff on Mierle Laderman Ukele’s scrubbing performance work (Hartford Wash: Washing, Tracks, Maintenance: Outside, 1973), the corporate man performs a ritualised scrubbing of the pool bottom. His intention is not clear, but his actions could be metaphors for sex, desire and narcissism as he plays out a weirdly inverted homage to Pollock-like heroic masculinity.

Hand-held filming, moody lighting, and the heartbeat sound track combine to create a strange sense of menace inside this large empty municipal ‘container’, where the red plastic bucket is fetishised and the dipping action of the man’s tie is suggestively sexualised.

This work continues to explore my interest around the rituals of gendered identity.

Performer Brooke Ashton-Taylor
Location Thorndon Swimming Pool, Wellington
Video camera and editing Sandy Gibbs