The Miss Rockaway Armada is both a collection of individuals and an idea. At its most basic, the idea is this: we’re going to float down the Mississippi River from Minneapolis to New Orleans on rafts that we built ourselves. The crew can be called many things: artists, musicians, builders, travelers, organizers, dreamers. Ask one of the people who help build and move these crafts for the purpose, though, and you’ll get many answers. But there are some things that we all agree on. We want to create: to invent a new sustainable way to travel, to demonstrate different ways of living and moving that are friendlier to the environment and to each other, to indulge in that essential urge to make something out of nothing. We want to meet people: to learn from new folks along the way, to teach what we know, to share our art, our music and our performance, and to make new friends. Finally, for adventure: to reclaim and reinvent the old American urge to strike out and discover the vast, mysterious land we inhabit and see it for ourselves.
We are floating down the Mississippi River on a raft we built from trash.
The catch is that we don’t know much about boats or rivers, and we don’t have any money. We know we are blowing crazy hot air, but if the idea makes your eyes glow like coals then you understand what we’re doing. For the last year we’ve been meeting, making phone calls, holding benefits, drawing blueprints and building like crazy. We collected scrap wood from all over the city and hammered it together piece by piece. We had benefit parties and socked away brown rice and dented cans. We organized mostly out of New York and New Orleans because that’s where we live, but we have folks from the West coast as well as the Midwest.
Here’s the plan: Last year we met in Minneapolis in late July with sections of our raft in tow. We pieced together our pontoons and filled them with salvaged blocks of foam. We made it beautiful and tied on anything that would float, adding it to our junk armada, our anarchist county fair, our fools ark. Our precious cargo is everything we hold dear: pieces and parts of the culture we are already creating. Our zines and puppets, sewing projects and poster campaigns, mutant bicycles and punk rock marching bands. Plus our thoughts and dreams and irrepressible energy.
In the winter of 2007 a nice bar called Ducky’s Lagoon in Illinois took Miss Rockaway in and dry docked our giant raft. We love them for that. Recently, we plopped Miss Rockaway back in the water with a crane and we’re getting back on the river soon with a bigger and better show, more rafts & boats, more workshops and a good helping of face painting or the kids.
Together we’re floating down the Mississippi river, as far as we can, anchoring here and there to perform, give workshops, and create the big huge stinking spectacle we wished would have stopped in our hometowns. And at each place we’re inviting anyone to contribute performances or workshops of their own.
Our flotilla is built green with precycled materials, rainwater collection, wind and solar power, biodiesel, and dumpstered dinners. If we make it right, everything will run on sunshine and french fry grease. However, we are NOT hippies.
We are a small group of people with extensive experience making big insane projects. In the past we have taken 20-person bands to Mexico, pulled off town square-sized guerrilla theater in Berlin, and fed hundreds of people with garbage and love. We know this idea is ridiculous and impossible. That’s why we’re obsessed with it.
What is the Miss Rockaway Armada?
The Miss Rockaway Armada is a group of approximately 30 performers and artists from all over the country including members of the Toyshop Collective, Visual Resistance, The Amateurs, The Floating Neutrinos, The Infernal Noise Brigade, The Madagascar Institute, Cyclecide, and the Rude Mechanical Orchestra. Last July we converged in Minneapolis to construct a flotilla of rafts that will journey down the Mississippi River. We’re stopping in towns along the way, hosting musical performances and vaudeville variety-theater in the evenings, along with workshops and skill-shares centered around arts and environmental issues during the day. In our travels we intend to share stories and to solicit dialogue around subversive and constructive ways of living. We are a group of intrepids who believe in a hands-on, live-by-example approach to creating change within our culture. We are taking cues from Johnny Appleseed, traveling medicine shows, nomadic jewel box theater, and of course that old radical Mark Twain.
Why are we doing this?
For a bunch of reasons. For the adventure. For the impossibility. But for more than this. We grew up in small towns. We remember the bookmobile and the punk rock band that seeded little pieces of something else. And now, even though we moved to big cities and found people like us, we still live in a country that fights wars so it can consume more. We are taking the urge to flee and heading for the center. We want to meet people who aren’t like us. We want to meet ourselves at age 16. We want to be a living, kicking model of an entirely different world — one that in this case happens to float. Plus we suspect that there is something wildish about seeing the stars night after night from the grand old Mississipi. Yeah sure, the Colorado is prettier, and the Rio Grande is its own divide, but the Mississippi has always been the main artery of this country. We want to start where the blood flows straight from the heart.