Kickstart some whimsy

Swimming Cities of Serenissima (2009)

One of the best things that street art can do, which doesn’t happen often, is that it can truly engage with people and inspire them. There are two whimsical projects potentially happening this summer which, while not traditional street art, come from that same place. And they need some support or else they might not happen.

First, there is Release the Wolves, a go-karting project by Gold Peg and Pelucas. These two artists are trying to build a go-kart track and go-karts with local kids in South London. They need another £6,500 to make the project a reality. When I was living in London, Gold Peg was one of my favorite local street artists/graffiti writers, and this project fits her to a T. I remember the opening night of The Thousands, a show that I curated back in 2009, where Gold Peg decided that, rather than put a painting in the show like the rest of the Burning Candy crew (in addition to the mural that they painted), she wanted to give out ice cream at an ice cream stand. And so she made a custom ice cream stand and had her friends serve everyone ice cream. It was probably the most popular part of the show, until the ice cream ran out. That was great fun and a bit whimsical, but it was for a crowd of Shoreditch hipsters like myself. With Release the Wolves, Gold Peg is taking that same spirit of fun and exuberance and bringing it to kids who probably didn’t show up for ice cream at The Thousands. I hope she can pull this project off. To help make Release the Wolves happen, you can pledge your support here.

And then there is the latest installment in the Swimming Cities project, which is probably best-known as that crazy series of junk boat projects that Swoon had a hand in. While Swoon is no longer at the helm, Swimming Cities has continued. This year, the group is hoping to float down the Ohio River. The Swimming Cities team is hoping to raise about $20,000 in the next 15 days. It’s a lot, but Swimming Cities is quite a project. I was fortunate enough to ride on one of the Swimming Cities vessels in Venice a few years back. It was the experience of a lifetime, and even just seeing the performance that took place on the boats was spectacular. I cannot say enough good things about this project. I hope that they reach their funding goal and send out some positive energy all along the Ohio River. You can help Swimming Cities here.

Photo by RJ Rushmore

Flood Tide

A scene from Flood Tide

Flood Tide is an upcoming film that was made during Swoon’s Swimming Cities of the Switchback Sea. It stars members of the bands Dark, Dark, Dark and Fall Harbor. Flood Tide isn’t a documentary, but rather a fictional story that just happens to have been filmed during the Swimming Cities project. The film is almost done, but they need another $10,000 to finish the editing and start distribution. That’s why they’ve started a page on Kickstarter asking people to pledge enough money to get the film made. If they can raise $10,000 in donations by July 20th, the film will get finished, and if not, all the pledged money will be returned. Of course, there are also some rewards for those who help out. I pledged $30, so I’ll get access to a members-only website, tickets to some film screenings in NYC and a digital download of the film when it is finished. Go to Flood Tide‘s Kickstarter page to learn more.

Swimming Cities fundraiser on Friday

Photo by Tod Seelie

I think that the Swimming Cities project is one of the most inspiring things to happen in the art world in recent years: a bunch of artists get together to built barely float-able rafts and travel rivers around the world. The 2010 project takes the Swimming Cities crew to the Ganges in India. To raise funds for the trip, there will be a silent auction in New York City on March 5th. Participating artists in the auction include Swoon, Imminent Disaster, Spy and Ben Wolfe.

This piece by Imminent Disaster is one of the artworks in the auction:

The next Swimming Cities project

Can’t believe I was lucky enough to randomly check out the Swimming Cities website tonight. On Sunday they announced that there is a new Swimming Cities project planned for March of 2010. The Swimming Cities of the Ocean of Blood will be a trip down the Ganges river. Here’s what is known so far:

The SWIMMING CITIES collective is planing a new project for mid march 2010 on the Ganges river in India to coincide with the Kumbh Mela festival, the largest human gathering on the planet. We plan to construct a large fleet of small sculptural rafts and travel from the Himalayan foothills city of Haridwar to the holy city of Varanasi. our journey will culminate with a performance on a floating island theater comprised of the interlocking rafts.

These rafts will be designed and built by a number of the members of the Serenissima crew as well as members from past and future projects; this is not a ‘Swoon’ project, though she may be involved in some small way, or at least in spirit.

For more information, you can go to

Swimming Cities

Kind of interesting that Swoon isn’t involved so much in this iteration of the Swimming Cities. As much as I love her art and the Swimming Cities project, I think that even in Venice this summer the Swimming Cities were much more of a team effort with Swoon’s artwork included than a Swoon project. This new direction might allow the idea to grow in new ways that weren’t possible when it was more focused on one person.

Swoon Sets Sail

Looks like the Swimming Cities of Serenissima has finally left Slovenia and started on the way to Venice. Swoon’s latest boat project is her 3rd, and the first outside of the United States. The homemade boats will carry a team of artists to Venice just in time for the Biennale (and if the timing works out, I’ll be there to see them arrive).

Maria, one of the rafts
Maria, one of the rafts
The Route
The Route

More at Juxtapoz

Swoon Original Charity Raffle

Swoon Raffle

Swoon needs our help funding her latest Swimming Cities project, so she’s organized a raffle. I’ll definitely be buying a ticket (or two), and hope you will too.

From Black Rat Press and Swoon:

When we first worked with Swoon in 2007 she spoke vaguely of wanting to do a project in Venice involving floating cities – 2 years on and this ambitious project is taking shape. This project requires some assistance and as a part of the fundraising Swoon will be raffling a really beautiful work on wood. Tickets are $30 each and you got to be in it to win it. More details below about the project and the raffle. Buy one – make a hippy happy.

The Swimming Cities of Serenissima is a fleet of three intricately hand-crafted vessels that will navigate the Adriatic Sea from the Karst region of Slovenia to Venice, Italy in May of 2009. Designed by the 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). The Swimming Cities of Serenissima are built from salvaged materials, including modified Mercedes car motors with long-tail propellers. For Swimming Cities, SWOON will collaborate with 30 artists from the United States, including OBIE award-winning playwright Lisa D’Amour. As the Swimming Cities move toward Venice, the crew will collect and install keepsakes in an ark-like cabinet of wonders that will be on display on the boats when they arrive. Once in Venice, the boats and crew will offer intimate performances that incorporate music, shadow puppetry, and story. The project is produced with the assistance of Deitch Projects, Paper Monster, Black Rat Press, Build It Green, and a thousand other people.

Letter from SWOON:

Last year, with a team of about 75 friends, crew, and collaborators, I built a flotilla of rafts out of salvaged bits of New York City. Our precarious floating home traveled 140 miles south along the Hudson River. What left as the refuse of the city’s mega construction returned as six vessels trying to encompass a whole world (the seventh died along the way).

This year, with some of those same vessels, and some new, we begin the second leg of our journey. Our destination? It’s the city whose outrageous countenance, rising straight up out of the ocean like that was a fine sort of thing for a city to do, was our original inspiration. Yes ma’am, we’re headed across the Adriatic Sea toward our first love, Venice.

This year we are a crew of 35, all artists, musicians, crackerjack mechanics, and folks who specialize in big, impossible, ridiculous dreams. We will put on a performance and cobble together a cabinet of wonders. We will, in our form, be working on themes of recycling and reuse, considering the footprint of a human community on the planet, and on issues of climate change. We have not found a solution to floods and sinking cities or where to go next, but we know that it’s important to us to create art and community at the same time as we seek a different relationship to our world.

We are starting in the Karst region of Slovenia (a former forest barren to this day after its large trees were cut for pilings in Venice), and skirting the northern coast of the Adriatic. For fun and a little mischief, we will be crashing the Venice Biennale.

Since we are doing all of this in an otherwise collapsed economy we need lots of help. It’s a big project that we are trying to fund with the help of many small contributions from people who would like to be involved and help us get these crafts afloat — even if you just think we’re cheeky and want to see if we’ll sink. This raffle is just one of the many ways we’re trying to get back on the water.

For information contact Heather Jones at

Benefit Raffle for Swimming Cities of Serenissima

To enter the raffle, purchase a ticket by going to and clicking on the RAFFLE button. Buy more tickets to increase your chances of winning. If we sell 100 tickets and you buy one, you’ll have a one percent chance of winning — if you buy 10, you’ll have a 10 percent chance. When your purchase is approved you’ll get a confirmation number. We’ll announce the winner on March 26.

Good lucky everybody!

Swoon Sails Adriatic in May

Photo by shoehorn99
Photo by shoehorn99

Looks about time for a weekend trip to Venice.

From The Art Collectors Blog:

Swoon is in the planning and fundraising stages for her next ambitious aquatic art project. Building upon Miss Rockaway Armad and Swimming Cities of Switchback Sea, the next installment of the artist’s floating armada is taking shape and is set to launch in May of 2009.  Comprised of a fleet of three new handmade vessels, The Swimming Cities of Serenissima will hit European waters and navigate the Adriatic Sea, Beginning in the Karst region of Slovenia, the ships will make their way to the final destination of Venice, Italy, stopping along the way to entertain audiences. Once again, Swoon will be joined by a crew of collaborators, including playwright Lisa D’Amour, puppeteer Robin Frohart and the band Dark Dark Dark.

If you’re not familiar with Swoon’s boat projects, this video, teaser footage from a film shot during her last trip, may help you understand the project, or it may confuse you even more. Either way, FLOOD looks like it is going to be a pretty cool film.

For more information on the trip and the upcoming fundraisers in New York and New Orleans, check out the project website.