Swoon has sent her vessels out to the countryside to reunite with the soil and trees.
Most art conservators and archivists make it their business to preserve a piece for posterity. Once art is created and collected it can be a vexing task for estates and institutions to make provisions enabling art to outlive the artist and it's caretakers for decades, generations, even centuries.
Swoon's iconic rafts, or boats, or ships, or vessels of fantasy, whatever you may call them -- these floating statues created for communal water-faring made of discarded materials, cut paper, hand paint, gossamer sails and dreams are now completing their mission here in the snowy foothills, their recycled lives continuing their voyage back into the earth, not preserved for the ages.
Only last summer you could see these vessels in "Submerged Motherlands," a record-setting exhibition at Brooklyn Museum that featured these rafts made of salvaged materials that once sailed on the direction of a rotating crew of captains and dreamers down the Mississippi from Minneapolis to New Orleans, down the Hudson River and East River in New York, across the Adriatic from Slovenia to Italy to arrive shimmering and victorious at the Venice Biennial at night.
Maybe it is because most people don't have space enough to store a once-sea-worthy D.I.Y. raft, maybe it's because street artists are accustomed to their work being worn down and destroyed by the elements, or perhaps it is a philosophical outlook that recognizes that life and death are part of one cycle.
Swoon decided the final docking place for these vessels would be this wooded area away from the city and nested in by birds, trod upon by deer, eventually covered by moss. On the day we hiked here the smallest field mouse, no bigger than the palm of your hand, darted out from under a rudder onto the snow for a few feet, looked at us and quickly ran back into a hole so small as to be nearly imperceptible, submerged.
When they were in use, these were near mythical conglomerations of sculpture, performance, shelter, community, fantasy, inner-fighting, lovemaking, maritime exploring, untethered and in a sort of extended state of disbelief apart from the codified rhythms of a time-obsessed age on land.
When they stood still in the museum, stately and under-lit by a wallowing blinkering light meant to emulate water and moonlight, they began to take on a certain sense of lore and fantasy, a rallying point for the eclectic alumni who gathered there for music and word performances, reunion, reflecting and revisiting their common history.
Here in these snow-quieted woods these rafts are at peace, still showing the signs of human activity but instead of exploring they are ready to be explored, open fantasies discovered in children's play, inviting sparrows and chickadees and finches to fly through, an inhabitant of the terrestrial, each year more a part of it.
If there is a cycle that Swoon is honoring by allowing these vessels to float back to the land, she will tell us in due time, or not. Like many artists she is not going to ruin some stories that you'll make but allow individual interpretation of her art in context, and here is a new one.
This article is also posted on Brooklyn Street Art.
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