‘Swimming Cities’ Docks in Manhattan

By
Photo: Christine Lagorio

Yesterday, a ragtag group of young artists, actors, musicians, and adventure-seekers sailed into Manhattan on six makeshift boats. Passing under the George Washington Bridge, the captains motored their vessels into a line formation, linked together in a flotilla, and killed the engines. The roughly 60 people onboard let out a massive scream.

They had been on the Hudson for nearly three weeks, sailing from Troy to Manhattan, stopping here and there to perform music and skits as part of a large-scale performance piece, Swimming Cities of Switchback Sea, conceived by Brooklyn-based artist Swoon. When they first set off, the group had seven vessels, but one ship, The Bird, went down somewhere near Kingston (unsurprisingly, as the boats were made from trash, scrap metal and remnants). Thankfully, the crew members seemed intact, although word spread that someone had suffered a broken finger.

This is not to say that life aboard the rickety vessels wasn't tough. Showers were rare and the floors of the rafts were too spiky to sleep on, but at least one boat had a full kitchen. "We cooked stuff we'd buy or sometimes get from Dumpsters," said band member and filmmaker Todd Chandler, 34.

Last night, their homecoming was celebrated by a performance of Minneapolis-based band Dark Dark Dark at Pier 70 in Riverside Park, where crew members performed a skit based on newspaper reports of their journey:

"You know what they call us? Water-world hippie paradise! You know what they call us? Free-loading idealists! You know what they call us? The love boat!"

Hotelier Robert Shanley and his twin brother, artist Don Shanley, took in the scene. "I was just passing through the park today because I live near here, and I thought, 'What on earth are these things?!'" said Robert. "So I called Don and said, 'This you have to see.' I just wonder how they got from point A to point B."

After the performance, organizers passed hats asking for "money, tampons, anything." Both Shanley brothers contributed.

Related: A Floating City With Junkyard Roots [NYT]