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Proposal & Route:
SWIMMING CITIES is a diverse and evolving collaboration of artists, builders, and visionaries who come together each year to embark on a challenging large-scale project. Originally united through our common friendship and talent by the international artist Swoon, the group traces its roots back to the DIY raft project on the Mississippi River, the "Miss Rockaway Armada." Taking a new waterway each year, the project creates a vivid community of artists floating into towns to present an inspiring, interactive environment that encompasses art, sculpture, music and performance. Each year the Swimming Cities conceives new rafts and builds them with mostly found materials in an organic design process. The multi-layered and uncommon talents of our members inspire us to continuously look for new ways to materialize our style of unique living art.
For our upcoming project, we propose building a fleet of small sculptural rivercraft at the foothills of the Himalayas, in a cultural exchange with local South Asian artists and artisans. Our hand-crafted boats will traverse the Ganges river from Haridwar to the holy city of Varanasi. The journey begins at the rare Kumbha Mela festival, held in Haridwar once every twelve years. This holy festival of the Hindus and Shadu holy men of India is the largest gathering of humans on the planet. We will stop at towns and villages along the way to commission custom embellishments for the boats in the local style.
The Ganges snakes through an abundant farmland, producing largely cane sugar, which we plan to refine into ethanol with a floating still, in keeping with our concern for sustainability. The boats themselves are designed to latch together into formations of five that form a radial star to increase living and working space. This method allows us to create large spaces from the many small ones built to fit through the low and narrow bridges of the Ganges. Propulsion relies on several different ingenious systems using a combination of locally obtained motorcycles to drive paddle wheels, long-tail diesel motors and wind power.
At last, the Ganges will deliver us to Varanasi. Said to be the oldest living city in the world, its vast history is ingrained in the layered patinas of its architecture and culture. On the banks of this holy city, the boats will merge to form a large, floating island theater. There we will present visual and musical events in collaboration with local musicians. This culminating event series allows the builders and crew to engage the people of Varanasi. People and boats will produce an ambitious performance, themed on the experiences of our adventure and the boundless historical and cultural richness of India.
For the first time, we are seeking collaborators in India for creation and building, and for performance. We are also actively seeking support from arts institutions, NGOs and sponsoring organizations. We plan to fundraise our projected budget of $90,000 over the next six months through local events, a fine art auction, and contributions.
March 2010: Arrival in Haridwar for Kumbha Mela festival.
April: Build container arrives at build site in Alahabad. Three weeks of building. Launch at end of April.
May: Arrive in Varanasi. Two weeks performance preparation.
June: Performances begin.
July: Dismantle and pack boats.