B’wick performance artists to live in giant hamster wheel for 10 days

Spin doctors: Artists Ward Shelley, sitting, and Alex Schweder plan to live on a giant wheel for 10 days for their performance architecture piece “In Orbit” in Williamsburg.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

This sounds like a wheel-y uncomfortable living situation.

Starting Feb. 28, a pair of Bushwick performance artists will eat, drink, sleep, and pee in a massive hamster wheel-like installation piece — one on the inside, the other around the outside — for 10 successive days.

The live performance piece, taking place at Pierogi gallery’s the Boiler exhibition space in Williamsburg through March 9, is intended to demonstrate the natural give and take of human relationships, explained one of the artists.

“It’s about this kind-of interdependent and cooperation of two people to make a fairly extreme environment livable,” said Ward Shelley.

Complete with fixed bathrooms, mini-fridges, chairs, and beds, the 25-foot wheel exhibition, called “In Orbit,” requires careful maneuvering by Shelley and his partner, Alex Schweder, who has a degree in architecture from the Pratt Institute in Clinton Hill.

In order to get to what they need, Schweder and Shelley must coordinate their movements to rotate the wheel. If one artist bends sideways, he could send his fellow performer’s food flying — or worse.

The artists are no strangers to works of “performance architecture,” as they call it. In 2009, they created “Stability,” a 25-foot house balanced on a seesaw-like wooden structure. Two years later, they followed up with “Counterfeit Roommate,” a vertical habitat also requiring movement coordination between Shelley and Schweder,

Living in their handmade pieces can be mentally taxing, but the months of construction and planning that precede each performance make it all worth it, said Shelley,

“It takes us months and months of trying just to get people to give us permission to do this, so when we finally get the chance to be there, it’s like, ‘Yeah, here I am, I finally made it,’” Shelley said. “There’s not that psychological sense of being held against my will.”

“In Orbit” at the Boiler [191 N. 14th Street between Berry Street and Wythe Avenue in Williamsburg, (718) 599–2144, www.pierogi2000.com]. Feb. 28–March 9 from noon–6 pm.

Reach reporter Megan Riesz at mriesz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her on Twitter @meganriesz.

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