Two artists are engaging in a durational experiment in tandem compact living in Pierogi gallery’s the Boiler in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a neighborhood where plenty of viewers have probably experienced the complications of life in small unstable spaces.
Called “In Orbit” (2014), the 25-foot wheel-home is the project of artists Ward Shelley and Alex Schweder. On February 28, they started a 10-day residency in the wheel, Shelley living on the outside, Schweder on the inside. Their final day is this Sunday, and although if you stop by after you can still witness the contraption, to see it in action this is your last chance.
The way it works is each loop, outside and in, is equipped with a bed, study, kitchen, bathroom, and little dresser, arranged so that when the wheel stops the matching item is available to each person at the same time. To switch over to a new activity, they both have to walk in tandem (Shelley is secured with a harness, although with the wheel dangling so high from chains on the Pierogi ceiling it still looks vertigo-inducing). This is the fourth time the two artists have collaborated on experiments in shared small dwellings, where the actions of who you live with impact your own existence. First there was the 2007 “Flatland“ at Sculpture Center that held six artists for almost a month, then the 2009 “Stability” in Seattle that involved a see-saw contraption, and finally 2011’s “Counterweight Roommate“ in Basel, Switzerland, where the two artists were hanging from a tower living unit, with the movement of a person up causing the other to go down.
There’s definitely a lot of room for dialogue in coordinated living in compact spaces, especially with an ongoing crisis of affordable homes that can allow you to live comfortably. People all over New York are fitting themselves into unusual dimensions and trying to make it work with other people. In this way “In Orbit” can be a device for dialogue on that, although it steps a little on the exaggerated side for instigating a serious discussion (as the many media outlets rolling over themselves with the “crazy Brooklyn hamster wheel” stories with little mention of compact housing issues). It also seems a little reminiscent of the IKEA Living billboards where actors existed in suspended compact rooms as an advertisement for living small Swedish style (although this is partly due to the wheel’s own IKEA furniture). Still, there’s a worthy discussion here that hopefully won’t get overshadowed by this towering art construction.
Ward Shelley and Alex Schweder’s In Orbit is at Pierogi’s Boiler space (191 North 14th Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn) through April 5. The artists are in the wheel through March 9.