POOL: “thinking alongside ocean life and rhythms”
POOL is a Johannesburg-based arts organisation that supports experimental and interdisciplinary artist and curator-led practice and research, and works to develop projects that connect practitioners, organisations and publics across a constellation of creative practices, scales and sites. Founded in 2015 by curators Mika Conradie and Amy Watson, POOL experiments and plays with exhibitions, public programming and publications as spatial and discursive practices. In 2016 Mika and Amy were supported by an ANT Mobility grant for a research residency in Madagascar. Their Ocean Thinking research project looked to explore rhythmanalysis as a curatorial methodology that considers counter-rhythms and arhythmic tempos across organic and mechanised worlds including: jazz, instituent practices, ecosystems. The project considered the life of islands, with a focus on Madagascar’s floating relation to the African landmass.
Our time on a research residency in Madagascar between Antananarivo and Mahajanga in 2016 was formative for POOL’s programming. Our research focus was jazz, a discipline known for its improvisation and we planned our residency to coincide with the Madajazzcar festival to meet with Malagasy jazz musicians and to begin thinking and talking about sonic collaborations between Madagascar and South Africa. We read the rhythms of jazz within another research stream that POOL was beginning to undertake, that of thinking alongside ocean life and rhythms, and also planned the residency with the corresponding full moon and tides, aware of the possibility of seeing a green ray at sunset in channel that connects Madagascar to the continental mainland. Our subsequent programming threads Rhythmanalysis and Ocean Thinking were informed by our time in Madagascar. On returning to South Africa we realised (rhythmanalysis) from within, without, and against (2017)in which we invited Malagasy musician Silo Andrian to collaborate with South African drummer Kesivan Naidoo in producing new compositions and realising several performances in Johannesburg. We still work with jazz musicians, having worked with Shane Cooper, Mandla Mlangeni and Thandi Nthuli in 2018 and 2019 on on once off experimental performances at POOL that might not otherwise have a context or audience. Our programming thread Ocean Thinking most recently saw POOL collaborating with The Oceanic Humanities for the Global South in realising Holding Water (2019), a conference and series of workshops and events. Holding Water included the premier of Bianca Baldi’s Play-White, a workshop with Zayaan Khan Thinking The Sea as Practice, an experimental performance with Shane Cooper and Thandi Nthuli entitled Tidalectics and a newly commissioned performance and installation by Nolan Oswald Dennis called the ground and other wet things.