Learning curve: Performance artists adjust to life in hamster wheel

Learning curve: Performance artists adjust to life in hamster wheel
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

And you thought your living situation was topsy-turvy.

Two Bushwick performances artists are making their home on top of and inside a giant hamster wheel-like room in a Williamsburg exhibition space until March 9. The pair say the show is a test of wheel friendship.

“It’s about the relationship that occurs because we’re in this situation,” said Pratt Institute architecture professor Alex Schweder on day five of his 10-day residence. “It’s something that’s hard to negotiate.”

Schweder lives on the inside of the 25-feet-across wooden structure and each of the pieces of furniture affixed to his domain has a double on the outside. The furnishings include beds and lamps, as well as a combined kitchen and bathroom that sits on a spindle to keep it constantly upright, liquids safely inside, during the circle’s rotations. Schweder’s longtime artistic collaborator Ward Shelley resides on top of the contraption and wears a chain harness to keep him from flying off.

The two have to carefully coordinate their movements to access their amenities. It has not been easy, but they are getting the hang of it and trying to match up their daily routines as much as possible, according to Schweder.

“If I’m uncomfortable having sat at the desk for an hour, I need Ward to get up from his desk.” he said.

The arrangement may be inconvenient, but the performers are far from roughing it. The have cooked up wholesome meals on their respective stoves, including omelettes and sausage with mushrooms, and their laptops have wireless internet access, so they have been editing video footage of their installation as they live it, as well as browsing Facebook, and corresponding with friends and family.

The proto-reality-TV-stars have also been getting a solid eight or nine hours of shuteye each night and reading books such as Roo Rogers and Rachel Batsman’s “What’s Mine is Yours,” which explores the idea that people should share rather than concentrating on their individual needs.

Seeing the artists in their unnatural habitat boggles the mind, according to a former arts student who, in the spirit of the scene, gave them a chocolate bar during his Tuesday afternoon visit.

“It took a little bit for me to get my head around,” said Trevor Wentworth.

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

Reach reporter Megan Riesz at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her on Twitter @meganriesz.
Sharing is caring: Ward Shelley and Alex Schweder walk from the living room to the bedroom together, apart.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham