At the beginning of summer 2009, I was in Venice when a friend called me with strange news: “the pirates are here”. Not really aware of who those ‘pirates’ could be, I decided to go to see them. What I found was an incredible floating city, consisting of three hand-crafted vessels (named Alice, Maria and Ol’Hickory), a visionary and crazy houseboat made from objects apparently found on the streets and salvaged materials. I didn’t really understand what was happening, but I sure was fascinated by that eccentric, magnetic group of people, sailing the lagoon with a sort of floating sculpture, playing music and bringing life to the warm and motionless Venice nights.
Later on, I discovered that what I saw was not a pirate ship, but the result of a great project, initiated by the artist Swoon and entitled ‘The Swimming Cities of Serenissima’. The crew, consisting of almost 30 artists from the United States, was sailing the Adriatic Sea from Slovenia to Venice, and, once in there, offering exciting performances to the locals.
“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. This project is a love poem to cities built in the middle of the ocean, and other unlikely creations.”
Before the experience in the Adriatic Sea, they had already been on the Hudson River in 2008 and on the Mississippi River in 2006/2007. Guess what will be the next adventure? India! Soon they’re going to float down the Ganges River from Farrukhabad to Varanasi. ‘The Ocean of Blood’ — this is the new title of the project — will stop in different towns and villages across the river, in order to collaborate with local craftsmen to customize and beautify their boats in an Indian style. Their aim is to create once again a complex and unusual system of boats, a floating island moved by motorcycles, winds or manpower (here you can find a complete description of the boats), built together with local artists and schools in the neighborhood.
The collective, consisting entirely of volunteers, is going to sail the Indian river in April 2011. If you are willing to support their adventure just check out their web page where you will find interesting hints while you’ll be waiting for their journey to start, thirsty for inspiring pictures of local beauty and dreaming of freaky boats sailing down the Ganges River.