Swimming Cities of Switchback Sea

“I could tell you how many steps make up the streets rising like stairways, and the degree of the arcades’ curves, and what kind of zinc scales cover the roofs; but I already know this would be the same as telling you nothing. The city does not consist of this, but of relationships of space and the events of its past…”
– Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

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“The seven boats, built by Swoon and her friends from scrap wood and other discarded materials, begin their sail down the Hudson River on August 15th in Troy, New York, stopping along the way for musical and theatrical performances. Swimming Cities of Switchback Sea is a two-part exhibition merging Swoon’s recent portraits, found objects of urban decay and a floating sculptural city. One part of the exhibition is on the water. The other is in the gallery.”

I had the pleasure of exploring this majestic city during my trip to NYC last weekend. Months earlier I had accidentally visited Swoon studio in Chelsea as she and a gritty crew of punk-sailors were furiously engaged in constructing the Switchback flotilla. The studio was a fabricator’s theater of salvaged wood, nail guns, and strewn prints. When I laid eyes on Swoon’s maquettes, I knew that I would have to return to NYC to see the her vision realized.

As I wandered around the docks and adjacent Deitch warehouse last Friday, I could not help but think I was seeing one of Calvino’s invisible cites made opaque. After sharing my enthusiasm with the friendly gallery assistant, he promised to pass along my praise to Swoon. My new friend Oeri then asked if I could help him carry a canoe out to the East River, explaining that he needed to tie up a loose boat. I happily obliged, and was rewarded when Oeri invited me along for the trip. We canoed around the dock, ducking ropes and maneuvering against the recycled rafts. I pulled the errant boat against our canoe and Oeri retied the worn out line. As we paddled back to the dock, my companion said Swoon wanted to take the boats to Venice, but they were unsure how to get them there. He said they could build new boats in Venice for less than the cost of shipping the originals to the Mediterranean. Either way, by cargo container or new construction, it looks like the Kublai Khan wont have to rely on Marco Polo to see through Swoon’s Swimming Cities.

Behold, the floating city of dreams…

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