Poolspace: A deconstruction and reconfiguration of public swimming pools
McLachlan, Fiona Helen
There are over 200 council-run public swimming pools in Aotearoa/New Zealand. The Local Government Act (2002) provides for public swimming pools as ‘core services’ in the same vein as libraries, museums, reserves, recreational facilities, and other community infrastructure (Department of Internal Affairs, 2010). Egalitarian, utilitarian discourses underpin the provision for public swimming pools, or ‘aquatic facilities’. These discourses implicitly promise that public swimming pools will remain features on the cultural landscape for all New Zealanders. However, this ideal is apparently under threat; several media reports have even claimed that pools currently face extinction. Consequently, community groups across the country are fighting to ‘save their pools’ (for example, ‘Friends of Edgeware’ and ‘Keep the Bluff Pool Open’). As well as sparking debate, impending and proposed pool closures beg numerous questions: Why do we hold pools dear? Why are pools worth saving? What assumptions underpin the loss and saviour of public swimming facilities? What is the ‘cultural’ cost of preserving/losing public swimming pools? In this thesis I consider the plight of public swimming pools. I adopt a loose framework which is centred on deconstruction and reconfiguration. In particular I use the guiding concepts – representations, foundations, and subjectivity to make the pool, something that appears ordinary and certain, extraordinary and uncertain. In Chapter I, I look to historical and contemporary representations of swimming to describe and deconstruct some of the ideas that surround swimming, and why we might consider swimming to be part and parcel of ‘culture’. I argue that representations advocating the usefulness of swimming and thus the need for public swimming pools (re)produce taken-for-granted cultural knowledge and logic that privileges particular ways of knowing. In Chapter II, I deconstruct the pool as it is represented and ‘objectified’ as a distinct object in several representations and historical narratives, and move toward a more fluid conceptualisation of public swimming pools – pool space. In Chapter III, I describe my analysis of pool space. To this end, I draw on ‘fragments’ of pool space collected from a range of sources from visits to pools, films, novels, news media and websites. I analyse these fragments by way of engagement. My engagement is centred on the principle of ‘becoming’, and performed through the processes of ‘disrupting’ and ‘feeling’. In Chapter IV, I further tackle the problem of representation, and propose a montage method to re-present my engagement of pool space. My montages are shaped by my reading and interpretation of theories of deconstruction and postmodern aesthetics (reconfiguration). The method is also my attempt to reconcile critiques of work that are wholly deconstructive, with a productive approach to knowledge making. Through the four montages – Everything in its Right Place, Saturated Pleasures, Dead Water and No-bodies, and It’s a Matter of Time – I invite readers to feel pool space. In light of the four montages I ask readers to consider whether public swimming pools in their commonly ‘known’ form should, or need to, remain features on the cultural landscape.
Advisor: Burrows, Lisette; Booth, Douglas
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Physical Education
Publisher: University of Otago
Research Type: Thesis