Rosa entered the fitness class sheepishly, with her billowing tentacles trailing behind her in a way that seemed to resist her soft body’s propulsion towards the swimming pool. Why did I sign up for this… she thought, chiding herself for being convinced by friends’ ecstatic Instagram posts to spend 40 pounds on something she could do in the comfort of her home. In reality, it wasn’t just the posts that swayed Rosa, but a self-encounter in the bathroom mirror that very morning. Her reflection looked saggy, dull, and alienated. So, she decided to take a chance. Nonetheless, synchronised swimming had always seemed to her a creepy bourgeois ritual, an activity confined to spectacles such as the Olympics, as if the robotically identical but nubile participants had spontaneously generated from the ether of the pool’s chlorinated waters, whose existence ended after the performance was over. Rosa stuttered on the word “performance.”
Well yes, it is performance, and it’s humiliating for everyone involved, she thought.
She entered the pool, self-conscious of the transparency of her body’s form. There were no other gelatinous creatures preparing for the class, let alone other jellyfish. She looked to her left and saw an elegant sea turtle craning her neck in and out her shell, using her flippers to perform aquatic callisthenics. The turtle was repeating to herself in a whisper, I am strong, I am immortal, I’ve still got it… The turtle caught Rosa giving her the updown, and introduced herself as Isabella, extending her flipper for a shake. Rosa politely declined, shrugging with her tentacles, explaining that they tended to shock people.
Suddenly there was a whistle at the front of the class, calling everyone to attention. The instructor was a tall, flexible, amphibious snake, and knew how to command a room. She first introduced herself as Irene, and then assembled all of the class’ participants into rows, darkened the fluorescents to trendy mood lighting, and turned on a playlist she called “Sexy Sunday Sync.” She proclaimed to the room with enthusiasm: I love my job! I love myself! and by the end of this class, you’re going to love yourselves too! Here at SwimCycle, we don’t swim, we sync.
The music began, thumping a heavy bass, creating ripples throughout the pool. There was no backing out for Rosa now. She breathed deeply, and cast a demure look at Irene, the instructor, who began her bit:
And one, and two, and three, and four… Left, right, flex, flex, extend a limb, give me a twirl!
Five, six, seven, eight… work it! Work it! Dive down! Find air with grace! Breathe in, float out!
The class went on like this; the energy in the pool was undeniable. Participants were shouting with glee, persisting through their exhaustion. Rosa felt her whole body pulsing with accomplishment, and felt graceful, as if she was built to do this. She looked again at the instructor and around the pool, and felt the whole thing to be an act of seduction, a performance of the self that felt vaguely spiritual. Everyone looked so beautiful, glistening in the water, in unison. She felt a part of something and she understood the hype, for that moment. She looked at her body through the water, and perceived a healthy glow.
— Gabrielle Jensen (member of To Whom This May Concern)
New Glow Formula is the first of three exhibitions in 'Crossings,' an exhibition series showcasing interdisciplinary partnerships across Goldsmiths' MFA Fine Arts, MA Expanded Practice, MA Black British Writing and MA Computational Arts courses, curated by To Whom This May Concern.
To Whom This May Concern is a nomadic curatorial collective, a self-initiated support network based in London.