Taking a break from camping this weekend, I got to check out the Calvino-worthy performance of Swoon‘s ‘Swimming Cities of the Switchback Sea‘ at the DIA Beacon last night. I’ve been committed to a lot of unconventional city readings this summer (on top of the aforementioned The Ghost Map and Underground, also Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews, 1430-1950).
Swoon is at the top of the graffitti world (not just ‘female graffitti artists), and has done a similar project down the Mississippi. This trip is a more modest storytelling exbidition down the Hudson river. The hour-long performance is a series of monologues loosely tied together by pantomime and music (by Dark Dark Dark). These experiments on ‘loose communal life,’ are decidedly reflexive about it. 60-odd performers participate on seven ramshackle ships (The ‘Seven Sisters’–ahem):
The boats use recycled motors, one from a 1968 Mercedes, another from a Volkswagen Rabbit (itself recycled from “Miss Rockaway”). One uses a gasifier, which burns organic waste materials.
Of the seven shipbound monologists who provide their overlapping and conflicting tales of the origins of the flotilla, one, ‘David,’ is a sociologist who stumbled onto the ‘docks that were disconnected from the waters edge.’ He talks about the crew as a form of civilization, and how the waters will soon be the world’s last open space. Expectedly the crews all playfully boo him for his scholarly analysis. But obviously, this was where my mind was wandering anyway. It reminded me of the alterative cart/homes for the homeless proposed by Duneier and Neil Smith, and the roaming Tent Cities of the American South and Northwest.