A Flotilla of Artists Sail down the Hudson River-Swoon and her Switchback Seas

photo by Angela Coppola
You know that summer is over in New York City when the gallery openings kick up speed. Thursday evenings, Chelsea streets become cluttered again with wine sipping gallery hopping enthusiasts. One of these art openings in particular caught my eye. "Swoon and Swimming Cities of Switchback Sea" will open this Sunday, September 7th, at Deitch's Studio in Long Island City, Queens.

I've always been a fan of Swoon's street art. What is striking about the Swimming Cities exhibit is that the artwork in question is actually a fleet of seven performance art rafts decorated and bound together with found urban decayed materials collected by Swoon and her crew. The boats have been making a three week journey down the Hudson River from Troy to Manhattan, sailing around the tip of New York City to finally dock in Long Island City this weekend. On Tuesday, I noticed on the website that the fleet was temporarily docked and performing at 70th Street and the East River, so I went to check them out.


photo by Tanya Munroe
When I arrived after dark at the pier, what first appeared to be an apparition turned out to be four fanciful boats linked together with about 23 merry crew members performing a play onboard all four. Meanwhile, a band on land accompanied the onboard action. The plot was a bit hard to follow, something about ghosts and the history of the boats, but as someone who really loves Pirates of the Caribbean, the spectacle was quite a sight to behold and rivaled the fun of watching Johnny Depp's swagger and panache. "Beatnik, ragtag, hippie boaters!" the crew sang. "Hell, yeah!" went the chorus.

Swoon did a similar project in 2006 with the Miss Rockaway Armada which floated for two summers and sailed approximately 800 miles of the Mississippi River.

The rafts use alternative energy sources, including biofuels and solar power, according to the fleet's publicity release. But the green aspect that I get most excited about is that these boats get artists and audience members to care more about the condition of the Hudson River, and about public access to our waterfronts. The project has connected with other water enthusiast groups including Riverkeeper, Hudson Sloop Clearwater, and the Gowanus Dredgers, and Swimming Cities is also a member of the Waterfront alliance.

Surprisingly, only one minor injury--a broken finger--took place along the journey, though the fleet lost their safety boat in Kingston. The flotilla will join Swoon's "invented landscape" installation at Deitch's East River waterfront studio on Sept. 7.


photo via liqcity www.liqcity.com

Performances are planned there on Sept. 11, 12, and 13. Check it out and while you are there check out the Long Island City boathouse.

For more information, you can also visit: http://switchbacksea.org/

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