Remember that Kevin Costner movie from the 90s, Waterworld, ‘the most expensive film ever made’, that everyone hated? Well it’s kinda one of my favourite movies (ever). And when I stumbled upon these wild photographs by Tod Seelie, needless to say I got pretty excited. A real-life waterworld, just like the floating islands and make-shift sea vessels from the film, these precarious-looking swimming mini cities are the artistic and utopian experiment of American street artist Swoon, and an eccentric band of steampunk sailors.
Since 2006, Swoon has been organising trips with the DIY floatillas on waterways around the world including the Mississippi River, the Hudson and a journey from Slovenia to Venice in Italy, where the sea-faring band of outsiders crashed the 2009 Venice Biennale and pretty much stole the show.
“As the Swimming Cities moved toward Venice, the crew collected and installed keepsakes in an ark-like cabinet of wonders that was displayed on the boats when they arrived,” notes Swoon on a blog created for the Serenissima voyage. “Watching them approach the shore was like seeing a floating city in the distance, as improbable as Venice itself.”
Photographer and crew-member for every trip, Tod Seelie has documented the real-life Waterworld, on these epic journeys.
So far the trips have featured a handful of vessels, up to five or six, which not only house the crew of up to thirty artists, but serve as their theatrical stages when performing to audiences wherever they dock. The artisans aboard will also invite locals to take part in arts & crafts workshops on the boats.
Brooklyn-based artist, Swoon (pictured above, ah yes, she’s a girl in case you had assumed otherwise) and her free-spirited collective of artists all get stuck in when it comes to building their post-apocalyptic rafts from recycled materials. With plenty of creative talent around, they end up looking like floating artworks, inventively decorated with bric-a-brac sculptures, installations and found objects.
Essentially styrofoam pontoons, the ramshackle boats are powered by old Mercedes engines which have been tweaked to run the propellers. Not always 100% reliable however, on their trip down the Mississippi, destined for New Orleans, the river proved to be too strong for their upcycled motors and the swimming cities had to end their journey at St. Louis.
A few residents of the swimming cities captured by Tod Seelie…
“To the real life crew, the boats were a place of refuge – both a home and a way of moving through the world”, writes Swoon, “To those who encounter the boats for the first time, they were a reminder that anything that can be imagined can be built.”
Since their highly successful voyage to Venice in 2009, the aquatic collective haven’t been seen on the waters, but a new adventure has been planned for this August down the Willamette River in Oregon.
A more refreshing alternative to the Burning Man Festival?!
See more photographs of Tod Seelie’s Swimming Cities of Serressima on his website and the best way to keep up to date with the Oregon trip is probably via Tod’s blog here.