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Miss Rockaway Armada: What Happens When DIY Meets Eco-Evangelism

This article was written by Sarah Rich in August 2006. We're republishing it here as part of our month-long editorial retrospective.

vilma.jpg About nine months ago, I moved to Seattle from San Francisco. They're similar places in many ways, with equivalent political leanings and cultural pockets -- a comfort to me since, to be cliché, I left my heart in San Francisco.

But last week I had a uniquely Seattle experience when I attended the final performance of the Infernal Noise Brigade, a full-on marching band and drum corps born at the Seattle WTO protests in 1999 -- the rhythmchild of several dozen radicals, anarchists and activists. Last week the INB was laid to rest with a final spectacle that overtook the streets, and it was a raucous and joyful funeral to be sure. They may have radical politics, but their music couldn't be farther from anarchy: these guys were good!

Now some members of the INB have joined forces with like-minded artistic interventionists from the Midwest and the East Coast for the epic journey of the Miss Rockaway Armada. And what, you ask, is the Miss Rockaway Armada? A group of 25 performers, artists and change-makers who have formed a collective which is currently congregating in Minneapolis to construct a flotilla of rafts and sail down the Mississippi, stopping along the way to offer workshops, skill-shares and participatory theater about art, environmental issues, and "constructive ways of living."

Our flotilla is built green with precycled materials, rainwater collection, solar ovens, and steam calliopes. If we make it right everything will run on sunshine and french fry grease. We want a floating garden, a bicycle-powered sound system, and wind-powered lights. We want to steal hippie technology from the hippies.

I learned about this radical project through Paul Schmelzer of Eyeteeth, who conducted and published a great interview with these "pirate utopians..."


One Armada member that Paul interviewed described the group like this:

What we are is urban, anarcho-environmentalist evangelists. We’re spreading the word of this new different way of life. It’s fair and even and vaguely ungendered—or less gendered than regular society. It’s sustainable to the extent we can be. It’s full of energy and exciting and DIY, and, yeah, we like to do things that seem impossible…It’s not political in the traditional sense of the word, but it’s political in the larger sense, in that we’re trying to create a social landscape here that’s unique.

The Eyeteeth piece depicts their Minneapolis staging ground as an apt workshop and launch pad for a waterborne sustainability brigade, near Xcel Energy's Riverside Plant, a scrapyard full of rusted out machinery, and a superfund site - which, one of the crew members emphasizes, is "superfund with a D not superfun like a party." But, as Paul attests, "their impromptu society of 30 artists and activists...does feel superfun like a party."

If you live along the Mississippi between Minneapolis and New Orleans, it's a party you may want to attend. If you don't, Miss Rockaway's got a blog.

Thanks, Paul!

Miss Rockaway Armada Builds a Flotilla is a part of our month long retrospective leading up to our anniversary on October 1. For the next four weeks, we'll celebrate five years of solutions-based, forward-thinking and innovative journalism by publishing the best of the Worldchanging archives.

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ummm... Unless I'm gravely mistaken, this already happened 2 years ago. Right now Swoon's new project is floating the hudson river on a junk raft as a project called Swimming Cities of Switchback Sea.

Posted by: gabriel amadeus on 8 Sep 08

Oh blast, I just read the first paragraph, dammit, sorry.

Posted by: gabriel amadeus on 8 Sep 08



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