“Watch out for the boat” is not a line you usually hear at art exhibitions, but Snorkel Dreams was no ordinary show. Last weekend, Machine Project, the rogue and often roving collective led by artist Mark Allen, filled a public swimming pool in Santa Monica, California with 16 more-or-less waterproof works of art, including paintings, prints and sculpture.
While swimmers in goggles or snorkelling masks drifted from work to work, lifeguards at the Annenberg Community Beach Center would call out and try to clear the way to pull a small tugboat around the pool—really an aluminium tub rigged by the sculptor Bob Dornberger with a see-through bottom for easy viewing.
Sculpture was a particular draw. Alice Könitz suspended an architectural hoop below the water’s surface that could be swum around or through. Andrew Cannon submerged a yellow-and-green stained-glass window that made the water itself seem glassy. And Patricia Yossen spread white cups and bowls on the pool floor that together looked like porcelain barnacles.
Yossen’s work was planted so deep you had to keep swimming back to the surface for air to take it all in. While submerged, you could see an array of legs slowly pumping underwater as their owners kicked to keep their heads above or below the water line, making for a wildly unsynchronised but also wonderfully serene dance.