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Updated: Mar 15, 2021

The Phrase of Corona-Year 2020 is probably ‘You’re muted’. This is how Anette Frisch’s images of outdoor pools in Germany speak to me now, in the retrospective light of multiple lockdowns. They are muted despite their bright colours, muted because without people the social vibrancy of outdoor swimming is taken away, made silent. Like being on a Zoom call with the video on but the microphone off, trying to speak but no-one hearing, people waving their hands next to their ears and others saying ‘you’re muted’. These images of outdoor pools are muted.

We swim as we can, when we can, where we can, and lockdown restrictions have impacted on everyone. Anette has been able to find some opportunistic swimming in Bavaria, I know. As a mostly outdoor pool-swimmer, the summer season mostly decides for her the swimming season. Her images of pools seem to be made mostly at the end of the summer season. I know they are probably not meant to be read this way, but for me they speak of the silence of COVID-19 lockdown last summer, when the streets were especially empty of cars and people and the pools closed down and waiting for purpose, when, who knows when? I remember well the desperation of swimmer-friends in London, facing and enduring being grounded in more ways than one – at home, without water to swim in. Anette’s pools have been deprived of people, and while sad, they are wearing their brightest make-up, continuing to make the effort to be groomed and ready for a social life which might start again, who knows when? Groomed and ready to attract people at a moments’ notice, to bring them back to swim and to dive, to frolic and to party, to laugh and to flirt.

These silent pools of Anette’s image-making contain contradictions – they are urban and colourful, but also silent and lonely. They are wistful but hopeful. They capture moods, which like people’s moods, are complex, changing and changeable, but also ambivalent and mixed-up, all at the same time. These contradictions seem to cancel out, making the pools muted, like most of Corona-Year 2020. They are to me the swim-images that speak so loudly the Phrase of the Year 2020 - ‘You’re muted’.

Anette lives in Dusseldorf and has a passion for swimming, mostly outdoor pool swimming. She has written eloquently about outdoor swimming in many forms and has a passion for the arts, writing, and understanding different ways of swimming. The book of her life is ‘Stiller’ by Max Frisch, whom she would like to be related to, but is not. They are related at least in spirit and sentiment in that they both write and they both love swimming. Max Frisch died in 1991, but I see him still swimming wherever his soul may be. He not only wrote, but was an architect who designed at least one swimming pool. If you were to design one outdoor swimming pool in your life, it might as well count, and this one certainly does - Letzigraben, in Zurich. Anette hasn’t swum there recently (actually I don’t know if she has swum there at all), and despite my loving Zurich as a swimming city, I haven’t swum there yet, either. Anette is an amazing image-maker and writer. She blogs beautifully - her website is about all things swimming, but especially about the people. In her images of pools and water, people are mostly absent; one day I will ask her why. Some of her strikingly present-absent muted images are displayed on the ‘Visions’ page of this website. I wish these pools to become un-muted as we move toward the summer of 2021, when with hope, the end of COVID-19 comes into sight on the distant shore.

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3 days ago

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