Billy Curmano Swimmin' The River (1987-1997)
  • Title: Swimmin' The River
  • Alternate Title: The Swim
  • Holdings: photo gallery, program, video (HIDVL)
  • Duration: 00:28:54
  • Language: English
  • Date: Live performance 1987-1997. Video documentary 1999.
  • Location: Mississippi River, USA
  • Type-Format: performance art
  • Cast: Conceived and performed by Billy Curmano.
  • Credits: Musical score by Billy Curmano with The New X Art Ensemble, Amazing Tess Toss Tertones, and Nuclear Percussion Ensemble; Support Crews, Players, and Videographers: Denise Gibson, Lorelei Januchowski, David Raith, James Adams, Margaret Adams, Don Christiansen, Darlene Hidek, Dick Hidek, Andi Shankle, Lyn Horness, D.L. Hunt, Sp. 4 Timothy Melin, Sgt. Michael Regino, Sp.4 David Schmidt, Carl Lacher, Christopher O’Brien, Dr. David Christenson, Bradley Mealey, Cathy Mealey, and Steve Mealey, Scott Miller, Glenn Robeck, Buzz Christiansen, Larry Jeffers, Lynn Jeffers, Carol Jacobs, Grover Sanschagrin, David Brower, Jamie Leaveak, Mick Leaveak, Buzz Noyes, Erin Noyes, Jeff Stoffer, Stan Shetka, Stewart Turnquist; Patrick L. Doss-Smith, Jerry Curman, Marion Curman, Nick Farrell, Dennis Kivlahan, Jake Weber, Michael Sapwell, Paul Schollmeier, Malia Ironside, Mary Coughlan, Pat Kelley, Scott Miller, Steve Smith, Bill Kost, Rosemarie Feiza, Lauren Mammen, Joe Hoover, Loni Lampman, Alan Doyle, Jenni Doyle, Dan Taylor, Bob Bradshaw, Joyce Cheney, Debra Drexler, Mike Hooten, Melisse Reichman, Dr. Bill Russell, Don Shipp, Larry Duane, Lindsay Moore, Daniel Romano, Laeeq Ahmad, Lou Kimmel, Ann Jillian, David Schild, Virgina Kost, Mike Goforth, Eugene Pamell, Rob Price, Rick Williams, Ryan Williams, Harry Baker, Darlene Headley, Otis Stepp, Vicki Winters, Tom Christenson, Tom Stnini, Chieri McCullough, Donald Smith, Christine Conley, Gary Pascuzzo, Terry Tutor, Roger Dahlin, Melinda Parsons, Georgen Coyle, Walken Ratajczyk, Alice Guffey Miller, Jami Nicholas, Jack Carr, Sant Kaur Khalsa, Ann Burfind, John Stoke, Alan Otto Schultz, and Paul Schollmeier; Support Crews, Players, and Videographers coordinated by Debra Drexler, Denise Gibson, Joan Heitkamp, and Alice Miller.

Billy Curmano Swimmin' The River (1987-1997)

In Swimmin' the River (1987-1997), Billy Curmano swims the length of the Mississippi River as a political gesture to advocate for the freedom from toxicity. Spanning from the headwaters to the Gulf of Mexico, Curmano uses the river as an artistic medium and political landscape to discuss environmental issues. He wades in the Mississippi as the sunlight glistens and the wind shapes the tide. Each stroke Curmano takes is an attempt to reclaim the river under the banner of art and to work toward a more progressive agenda for climate justice. The ecology of Curmano’s swim can be seen as an extended metaphor of pollution—one in which our existence has become contaminated by the effects of eco-capitalism.

Billy X. Curmano’s art practice examines issues of consequence with absurdist flair. Formally trained as a painter and sculptor, Curmano fuses the performative with traditional objects. He became the first person to swim the Mississippi River spanning from the source at Lake Itasca, through the center of the continental United States, to the Gulf of Mexico. This performance resulted in the Hampton Award Winning documentary Swimming the River (1987-1997), which brought the artist critical acclaim. Curmano extended the swim by performing excerpts of it in the traveling exhibition Objects Collected and Created in the Course of a Swim (1995-1997). His work has been exhibited and collected extensively from Austria’s III Vienna Graphikbiennale to New York’s Museum of Modern Art Library. Mark Pezinger Verlag published Billy X. Curmano Futurism’s Bastard Son (2012), an artist book that features a compilation of Curmano’s performance art. Amused journalists have dubbed Curmano as “The Court Jester of Southeastern Minnesota” with comparisons to P.T. Barnum, Andy Warhol, Marcel Duchamp, and even…a happy otter.

icon Swimmin' the River performance catalog

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icon Swimmin' the River performance text 


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