The Swimming Cities of Serenissima was a fleet of three hand crafted vessels that navigated the Adriatic Sea from the Litoral region of Slovenia to Venice, Italy in May of 2009. Designed by the visual artist SWOON, the floating sculptures are descendants of the Swimming Cities of Switchback Sea (Hudson River, 2008) and the Miss Rockaway Armada (Mississippi River, 2006 and 2007). SWOON’s boats were inspired by dense urban cityscapes and thickly intertwined mangrove swamps from her Florida youth. The Swimming Cities of Serenissima were built from salvaged materials, including modified Mercedes car motors with long-tail propellers. The boats’ crew was made up of 30 collaborating artists from the United States. As the Swimming Cities moved toward Venice, the crew collected and installed keepsakes in an ark-like cabinet of wonders that was displayed on the boats when they arrived. Once in Venice, the boats and crew offered intimate performances that incorporate music, shadow puppetry, and story. The vessels were imagined as a hybrid between boats and bits of land broken off and headed out to sea. Watching them approach the shore was like seeing a floating city in the distance, as improbable as Venice itself. To the real life crew, the boats were a place of refuge – both a home and a way of moving through the world. To those who encounter the boats for the first time, they were a reminder that anything that can be imagined can be built. The Swimming Cities are designed and organized by printmaker and installation artist SWOON. Collaborators include puppeteer Robin Frohart and the band Dark Dark Dark and many many more. Boat design and carpentry created in close collaboration with Jeff Stark, Iris Lasson, and with guidance from The Floating Neutrinos. Motors are designed by “Chicken” John Rinaldi. Artists and organizers collaborating include: A’yen Tran, Anton Berteaux, Adina Bier, Arielle Bier, Ben Burke, Ben Mortimer, Connie Hockaday, Conrad Carlson, Ryan Doyle, Greg Henderson, Hana, Harrison, Heather Jones, Irina, Jonathan Kaiser, Laurel Bell, Ledia Carroll, Marshall Lacount, Matt Clark, Moses Grubb, Nona Marie Invie, Orien McNeill, Paul Cesewski, Porter Fox, Robin Frohardt, Robyn Hasty, Spy Emerson, Tianna Kennedy, Tod Seelie, Todd Chandler, Tony Bones, V Dougherty. The project is produced with the assistance of Deitch Projects, Paper Monster, Black Rat Press and Build It Green.
Can I join the swimming cities crew and ride along on one of the vessels? Nope. Sorry. We have 3 rafts and 28 people already. Swoon determined the crew last year and we don’t even have space for our friends and past collaborators on-board. Meanwhile,resources are scarce and we’re still working out food and places to stay for the folks we have. Tell us about yourself, though, and stay in touch, maybe one of us will be eaten by a nutria and we’ll need a replacement! and there’s always next time… Are you an Environmental Project? We appreciate all of the press highlighting our use of recycled materials and our desire to exist for a time outside the traditional modes of production/consumption. It’s true that, as a rule, our crew-members are well-intentioned, live lives of relatively small footprints, and that we do our best to promote lifestyles of the future. However, we would be the first to admit that Swimming Cities as it currently exists, is neither sustainable, nor an energy-efficient operation. We are first and foremost a project realizing our friend Swoon’s artistic vision. We’re a pretty diverse crew of folks - each with his or her individual reason for participating - to describe Swimming Cities of Serenissima as ‘an environmental statement’ would not accurately represent the project. We’re trying though! We’re learning together and making mistakes and learning from them. I am traveling in Slovania/Venice this spring/summer, when and where can I see Swimming Cities in action? We’ll be building in Ankaran until May 7th or so, we’ll be crossing from Slovenia to Italy and traversing the canals late May. June 1-14th we’ll be performing in and around Venice. How long will the boats be on display in Venice? Two weeks: June 1-14. Where will the boats go after the project is over? There are tentative plans to exhibit the boats in Paris or England. We’re also tempted to explore all of those fantastic islands off the coast of Croatia. Perhaps we’ll give them away? We’ll have an answer to this soon. I can’t afford to See Swimming Cities in Venice, how can i be involved here in the U.S. of A.? You can write firstname.lastname@example.org to see if you can make friends or help in another way. Most of the crew lives in Brooklyn, NY or the Bay Area in San Fransisco and are cultural producers in their own right. There are always crazy impossible projects going on that could use your help and support. I love everything about swimming cities and want to organize a fundraiser, what are the guidelines for doing so? - You can help support the project by throwing a party/event and donating the profit to our paypal account or sending checks to Callie Curry c/of Heather Jones 103 Dupont Apt 4 Brooklyn, 11222 Please do what feels right to you and yours. Please don’t use our name to promote products. Please try to make sure everyone at your event is treated fairly, and try to make sure people have a good time. We like to dance, we hope you do too. If there’s money left over you can send it to us. I am a journalist, writer, or some other type of professional that involves writing/reporting, who can i contact to cover this magical email@example.com for info about the boats and project or firstname.lastname@example.org for questions about Swoon or her work. Where did you find the salvaged material to build the three boats? Most of the wood was pulled out of construction site dumpsters and off the street in NY. Some was purchased from Build It Green in Astoria Queens. Some was found in Slovenia. The motors are designed and fabricated by Anton Berteaux and Chicken John from San Francisco. How did the 30 collaborating artists come together to make this project a reality? oh man: Years of friendship and collaboration, chance, good luck, misfortune, hard work, random escapades… Is Swimming Cities a non profit organization? No, we are not a 501c3, but we collaborate with non-profits, so if you’d like to make a tax-deductable donation, please email email@example.com to find out how. I live in or between Slovenia and Venice, how can i help? You can suggest or recommend accommodations for us: camping, vacant houses, abandoned lots, squats, renting houses and apartments etc. You can make friends with us and help chase away the nutria. How big are the boats? -All three rafts are roughly 20’x20’ and are about 20’ tall we’ll just barely make it under some of the bridges in Venice How many people are in the crew? We feel the same way. I mean, there’s around 30 people working in Slovenia/Italy to make this happen. There are 3 or 4 working full time in NY. There are 10 or so helping them and probably 100 helping them. There’s Chicken out there in SF and all his crew. There are all of the past crew members giving advice and support. There are the people generously buying art to make this happen and the galleries and friends selling and making the art. There’re are all of the new friends we’re making in Slovenia and the food we’re eating to make us go and the water and… How long do you plan on sailing it/ do you need to ‘park’ it in Venice? We’re docking in Venice at a place called VdV, but we’re taking the boats out for adventuring and to put on a show. We’re still working on all of the permissions and housing along the way and for once we arrive in Venice. What’s up with going to the Biennale, were you invited? No. This project is a love poem to cities built in the middle of the ocean, and other unlikely creations. The month long voyage ending in Venice could have happened at any time of year, it just seemed like it might be a little more fun to crash the Biennale while we were at it. What is the Philosophy of the Project? There are as many philosophy’s as participants, I think. Maybe a couple are : interact with the people and world around you; try to take responsibility for you’re your actions and your life; Our friend amylin says, ‘be realistic: demand the impossible.’ Some of us like to model risk-taking behaviour (the good kind). Some of us just like banging nails in things. Some of us are into kinetic sculpture - some performance and music, some think they know about boats. Some like figuring things out. Some like meeting people and partying. Some like sitting by themselves. Some like painting and wheatpasting, and cutting paper. It all kind of fits together into this thing we’re doing as a group of friends and collaborators. How fast can you go? Not very: Maybe we can go up to 7 knots in flat water if we’re lucky and parts aren’t falling off. Will you do this again? Will you?