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Part art project, part utopian experiment, a street artist by the name of Swoon, as well as a band of artists, DIYers, and other free-spirits, has built a collection of ramshackle yet visually striking rafts to float down rivers and canals with a loosely defined purpose. Tod Seelie, a friend of Swoon’s, has been on all the trips so far as a crew member and brought his camera to document the creativity and chaos.

“I can only really speak for me,” Seelie says, “And really it’s a combination of things, but I’d say the main point [of the trips] is inspiration. It’s the inspiration we feel and the inspiration other people feel when they come across us.”

The group have organized three different trips so far. The first two were down the Mississippi. The plan was to take the rafts from Minneapolis to New Orleans, but the farthest the group ever made it was St. Louis because the river proved to be too strong. The third trip went down the Hudson from Troy, New York to Queens. The fourth trip went from Slovenia to Venice and was meant to coincide with the Venice Biennale. All these trips took place several years ago, but there is a new one in Oregon planned for mid-August.

The rafts are the brain child of Swoon (her real name is Caledonia “Callie” Curry), who is probably most famous for her life-size wheatpastes. Most of the rafts are made from recycled materials and are essentially artfully made-up pontoon boats (their pontoons are wood with styrofoam inside instead of metal). The motors are old car engines that have been hacked to run propellers. Each trip featured a different number of boats, but sometimes there were up to five or six different vessels.

On some of the trips, the boats were designed to not only move through water and house a crew but also host live theater and music performances. On the Mississippi trip, whenever the boats would dock near a town, the crew would invite locals to the boat and teach them trades like silk screening or costume making.

“Many of us had hitchhiked before, or toured with bands. But we were all swept up by being on the boat, It was by far the most amazing thing I’d done,” says Seelie.

Seelie says the flotillas are different from other cross-country adventures because it’s not just about making it down or across some specified route. It’s also about meeting people along the way.

“We are moving as this giant group and intentionally trying to engage people,” he says. “We constantly heard people say, ‘I really wish I had done something like this when I was younger.’”

Along with photos that document the boats and the adventure, Seelie also made portraits of crew members in order to put a face on these crazy adventures.

Seelie’s first book, which is about New York City, where he lives, will be released in October, and a couple of the photos from the Hudson trip are included. For years he’s shot punk bands, artists and other people living their own lives around that city, and he sees the raft crew as directly related to these other alternative, or counter-cultured, communities.

“I think a lot of the people who I photographed for the book are trying to make the city the city they want to live in,” he says. When it comes to the flotillas, that idea “is taken to an even bigger level. There it’s about making the world that they want to live in.”

To see more of Seelie’s work, please check out his blog.

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OUTSIDE IN is a celebratory and historical look at street art through the lens of the Museum of Contemporary Art’s groundbreaking exhibition Art in the Streets. The film features renowned artists Shepard Fairey, Lee Quiñones, Swoon, Futura, Mister Cartoon, Revok, Martha Cooper, Invader to name a few. Director Alex Stapleton (Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel) documents the artist’s creative process, their pitfalls with the law, the poetic impermanence of their craft and the artists’ evolution from the back seat of a cop car to the walls of a well-respected institution.

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