Wading into The Pool exhibition in Melbourne

The Pool exhibition at the Ian Potter Centre, NGV Melbourne

The Pool, Australia’s exhibition at last year’s Venice Architecture Biennale, has had a second life and last Friday night was officially opened at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) in Melbourne. 

The Pool exhibition NGV Melbourne

The exhibition celebrates the pool in Australian architecture, culture and life and there was plenty of enthusiasm for its reincarnation at the opening, including an impromtu game of beach volleyball in the pool.

Opening night at The Pool, Ian Potter Centre, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.

The original The Pool, curated by architects’ Isabelle Toland and Amelia Holliday from Aileen Sage Architects with urban strategist Michelle Tabet, has been expanded in its new showing at the NGV’s Ian Potter Centre at Federation Square.

The Pool, NGV Victoria

It still includes a pool, only smaller in size than the one in Venice, and audio stories from eight high profile Australians – Shane Gould, Paul Kelly, Hetti Perkins, Anna Funder, Christos Tsiolkas, Ian Thorpe, Tim Flannery and fashion label Romance Was Born’s Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales.

The Pool exhibition at the Ian Potter Centre, NGV, Melbourne

New additions include short films on six pools, a number of floor to ceiling photos and a digital newspaper reproduced on large iPads throughout the space with photos and stories on pools across Australia.

The Pool, Ian Potter Centre, NGV Melbourne

I have three photos in the digital newspaper – one of Coogee’s Wylie’s Baths, another of the old grandstand at Moree’s Artesian Baths and one of the diving pool at the Ruth Everuss Aquatic Centre at Lidcombe before its recent redevelopment.

Photo of Wylie's Baths by Therese Spruhan in the digital newspaper at The Pool exhibition at the NGV Melbourne.

I also have a story on Coogee’s McIver’s Ladies Baths, which was part of the broadsheet accompanying The Pool in Venice.

Ladies Only story on McIver's Ladies Baths Coogee by Therese Spruhan at The Pool exhibition, NGV Melbourne.

Other new inclusions at the NGV are novels featuring pools including Helen Garner’s Monkey Grip, Christos Tsiolkas’ Barracuda and The Slap and the wonderful book, The Pool produced to accompany the exhibition in Venice, which I also contributed to.

Pool books at The Pool exhibition NGV Melbourne

On Friday night before things got rowdy and we took off our shoes and joined fellow revellers in the pool, we spent about 20 minutes enjoying the quiet in the second room watching the six beautifully filmed videos on Fitzroy Baths, Prince Alfred Park Pool, Bondi Icebergs, North Sydney Olympic Pool and two private pools.

Floating figure, Villa Marittima, St Andrew's Beach, Victoria at The Pool exhibition at the NGV Melbourne.

I felt very nostalgic watching scenes from North Sydney Pool where I spent many hours during my teenage years and during the mid to late 80s when I lived nearby.

North Sydney Pool, photo from The Pool exhibition film, NGV Melbourne

Back in the main space we gathered with the other guests to toast The Pool’s debut on Australian soil.

The Pool exhibition opening night at the NGV Melbourne.

The next morning we returned for a talk from architect Isabelle Toland, Olympic swimmer Shane Gould and composer and percussionist Bree Van Ryck who were interviewed by Ewan McEoin, the Hugh Williamson Senior Curator of Contemporary Design and Architecture at the NGV, who said when he saw The Pool in Venice he immediately wanted it to be seen at home.

The Pool exhibition at the NGV Melbourne.

Bree Van Ryck composed the music for the installation at the Australian Pavilion in Venice and at the NGV, and it was wonderful to listen to her and and Shane Gould talk about the sounds at pools.

The Pool exhibition at the NGV Melbourne.

Bree said for her, swimming is a solitary thing where she enjoys the absence of sound. “There’s the submerged sound and the rest of the world sound and when you are up the light (and sound) is turned onto full.”

Photos at The Pool, NGV Melbourne

Bree spoke about how she created the music for The Pool listening to all sorts of songs about swimming and water including Kate and Anna McGarrigle’s The Swimming Song, Peter Sculthorpe’s melody Gialalay which translates to a whistling duck on a billabong and Paul Kelly’s Deeper Water, who she has performed with. The stories of the eight Australians were also an influence with each one having a really beautiful and different perspective on the pool, she said.

Paul Kelly photo, part of The Pool exhibition at the NGV Melbourne

Shane Gould remembered how the pool at the 1972 Olympics at Munich was like a stage where the athletes performed. One of her strongest memories was of a German brass band playing as competitors walked towards the blocks and the crowd’s cheering echoing around the space giving the pool a theatrical feel.

Shane Gould at Dawn Fraser Baths, photo in The Pool exhibition at the NGV Melbourne

She also spoke about the aural properties at different types of pools and how the sounds at older, nostalgic pools are children laughing, random bombs and splashes whereas at aquatic centres it is a more predictable tempo of people doing laps and the percussion of the kick-down of legs.

Photo at The Pool exhibition at the NGV Melbourne
1956 Melbourne Olympics Pool

Currently doing a PhD on the culture of swimming in Australia, Shane is passionate about creating pool spaces where people can relax and reconnect.

The Pool exhibition at the NGV Melbourne

She said there was still a place for the rectangular 50 metre pool where people can do laps but other features needed to be incorporated such as changing depths, curves and lines and a sense of ‘what’s around the corner?’

The Pool exhibition at the NGV Melbourne

“We need space to relax and to have casual places where you can drift, where you can get bored and notice the colour of the deciduous trees and the shapes in the water.”

Photo at The Pool exhibition at the NGV Melbourne

Isabelle Toland said those intangible aspects of the pool and appreciating the setting were the key to The Pool installation in Venice.

The Pool exhibition at the NGV Melbourne

“As architects we think people are expecting more than they think they need and people are caught up thinking they need that too.  But just the water can be enough and appreciating that space.”

Bondi Icebergs scene from a short film on the pool at The Pool exhibition at the NGV Melbourne.

“The pool has this incredible ability to remind us that we are all human,” Isabelle said. “It reconnects us with the fact we are mostly made up of water so we are drawn to it as a place where we can let our minds go free. We are reminded of how incredible and beautiful life is just with the simplicity of that quality of the light reflecting on the water.”

The Pool exhibition at the NGV Melbourne

The Pool is at the NGV Design Studio, Ground Level, Ian Potter Centre of the National Gallery of Victoria at Federation Square. It’s free entry and on till 18 February 2018 so drop by and wade in.

The Pool exhibition at the NGV Mellbourne


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