This year, a new spectacle will join the Ganga Mahotsav at Varanasi—Swimming Cities
VARANASI This holy city is where Indian tourist tropes get sacralised. It’s where India Chaotic, Exotic and Apocalyptic get together and have a spectacularly over-the-top party, culminating in the Ganga Mahotsav every November. This year, a new spectacle will join the party—Swimming Cities, an open air gallery composed of five steel pontoon boats powered by motorcycles. Its Brooklyn-based creators, a collective called The Ocean of Blood, describe the project as “a sculptural performance” and “improvisational adventure tourism art”. They’ve previously undertaken five such voyages, including performances in Venice and New York’s Gowanus Canal (see picture above). This voyage begins in Farrukhabad, which they chose on Google Maps because it looked like a good spot to set off down the Ganga towards Varanasi.
Before that, though, the group spent some time shopping for supplies in Delhi’s Paharganj, that other party spot for spectacular tourist tropes. The group met through performance spaces in Bushwick, which appear to attract individuals with impossibly multi-hyphenate vocations. Mayra Cimet, 23, has a range of talents including “metal-smithing, working with wood, rope and wax, performance, and poetry”. Porter Fox is a writer and an accomplished sailor, Orien McNeill, who also organised the project, is a sculptor and industrial designer, while Zachary Tucker is an artist, electronic musician, mechanic and mutant motorcycle-maker.
As professional bricoleurs, they had a novel method of fundraising for the trip: a series of Vaudevillesque dance parties with elaborate themes. All sorts of cultural references boozily jostled together in these happenings: Cossack guards, prostitutes from Fellini films, Depression-era train-hoppers and pirates. A few more parties and a whole lot more boozy jostling might await the crew on their return, to get their boats shipped back.