The Swimming Pool Series is an ongoing taxonomical study of four swimming pools built, owned and maintained by Saudi ARAMCO on each of the oil company’s four separate compounds: Dhahran (Saudi ARAMCO’s administrative headquarters), Ras Tanura (the oldest refinery and company port on the Persian Gulf Coast), Abqaiq/Biqayq (home to the company’s oil processing facility), and Udhailiyah (home to the company’s gas-gathering program).
For decades, these were the only pools that existed in Saudi Arabia until after the first Gulf War. Their blue expanses represent the superimposing of a 1950s California suburb onto a desert landscape, operating as colonial watermarks. Equally influenced by the artist’s upbringing in Dhahran and her studies at the Art Institute of Chicago and affinity with California painters and photographers like Ed Ruscha, the Swimming Pool Series imagines the encroachment of suburbia and envisions the chaos of empire and industrialization through the banality of the backyard pool.
The earliest set of four swimming pools was made in 1999 and most recent set in 2010. As the longest ongoing series of works by Waheed, they elicit a lingering sense of anxiety through their obsessive repetition and a feeling of isolationism inherent to the uncanny fabrication of the suburban experience on the world’s largest and most valuable oil compound.