On Day 5 of ‘In Orbit’ Alex Schweder and Ward Shelley are cooking omelettes, checking Facebook, and sleeping

Learning curve: Performance artists adjust to life in hamster wheel

The Brooklyn Paper
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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,]. Through March 9, noon–6 pm.

Reach reporter Megan Riesz at or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her on Twitter @meganriesz.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Michael from Bay Ridge says:
I can't shake the feeling that this a sort of unoriginal project that looks a lot like other performance art pieces where people are locked into enclosed spaces and the public can come and view them. Like Tilda Swinton's glass box a year or two ago.
The hamster wheel is a new twist. Like adding spices to leftovers to hide their stale taste.
I don't see how a tried and tested performance art formula should justify two articles in a "news"paper.
March 5, 2014, 7:32 am
ty from pps says:
Michael --
I agree with you. If anything, this is the one that should have been the *one* story... since it actually has proper photos and decent detail (if someone was actually interested). Having two just makes it clear that the motive is page clicks by diehipster types and not actually community reporting.

OK. there's PLENTY of evidence that they're not interested in reporting that is actually constructive or useful to the community, just News Corp. style controversy ginning and sensationalism, but this is another piece of evidence. Though, I've been surprised a couple times recently with the emergence of brief moments of journalistic integrity.... Has the editor been taking vacation days or been out sick?
March 5, 2014, 8:35 am
diehipster from Assaulting Addisons says:
Yep. Two articles in one week about this goofy attempt at art. I guess there's not much to write about when the writers of this paper all live in Six Flags Bushpointburg Adventure and never go below Prospect Park.

All you're ever going to read here is the same tired stories of hipster coffee, hipster beer, hipster bikes and horrific hipster art. Over and over and over and over.

God forbid they maybe went down to Brighton Beach and asked people how they feel about the situation in Russia/Ukraine - nahhhhhhh - let's discuss Ward and his hamster feces wheel again. ART ART ART ART ART!

March 5, 2014, 9:08 am
Homey from Crooklyn says:
Please don't call these clowns artists, it's offensive.
March 5, 2014, 9:09 am
The Chooch from The Bohemian Magic Show says:
You're absolutely right, Michael. This is very conventional art. The edgy stuff in Brooklyn these days is actually being done with oil on canvas. "Conceptual art" like this, which was edgy 40 years ago, is now the academic art. And so the adage that "what comes around goes around" could even be an intended message in this work. The game of art these days is not whether the idea is new or not, but how not to fall off the wheel. Voila, point made.

What's awesome about this piece is not the content or the message, but just the fact that they have the space and the money to put it on. It's a celebration of the "balancing act" among artists and gallerists in Brooklyn that starts with nothing and ends with gentrification. Or, what we call the bohemian magic show.
March 5, 2014, 9:35 am
JAZ from Hunting Redbeards says:
Can't wait for tomorrow's article to read about what Ward the whimsical ate for breakfast this morning. Maybe Egg can rush over a $13 gentrification omelette.
March 5, 2014, 9:59 am
NYPD from NY says:
Wow! Crybabies live in one of the most creative cities in the world and complain about a project because they don't consider it art. Tell me, aside from the steamy coil this morning, what have any of you created before? I don't hate or like this project, but i doubt any of you are smart enough to build this on your own. I man enough to admit that I'm not.
March 5, 2014, 10:06 am
The Chooch from The Bohemian Magic Show says:
Agreed, they will definitely have to have the most expensive take-out in Williamsburg ... for the duration. Rent free too! Shazoom baby. Abbrakazaaaam.
March 5, 2014, 10:08 am
The Chooch from The Bohemian Magic Show says:
Don't even try, NYPD. These guys don't have a clue what goes into a project like this. They don't have a clue how long this practice has been going on in Williamsburg. The whole magic show is just now starting to smack them upside the head. And they're kicking themselves that they didn't buy that vacant lot for 20 grand back in the day. They think artists are being "displaced" like them.
March 5, 2014, 10:18 am
The Chooch from The Bohemian Magic Show says:
The mooks complain. The artists figure it out, with or without gentrification.
March 5, 2014, 10:24 am
Scott from Park Slope says:
diehipster, I don't know what's got into you lately. First the neighborly tip about the bowling alleys, and now recognizing that this paper has been baiting you *and* asking why they haven't done something meaningful like asking people in Brighton Beach about the situation in Ukraine. It's almost like you're evolving into someone who's a real human being instead of a caricature. Maybe you had a brush with your own mortality, maybe you've found religion. Whatever it is, it's a good path. Keep walking it.
March 5, 2014, 10:57 am
John Wasserman from Prospect Heights says:
Warships headed to the Black Sea? Pardon me, but what about Elen (sp?) handing out pizzas the other night? Could someone do something on that asap, if you don't mind?
March 5, 2014, 12:25 pm
Sharon Weiss says:
Thank you John - I know! LA Pizza??? Someone is going to get a red card!

So paper - what's the take on pizza-gate?

I'm sure you'll find something saucy!!!!
March 5, 2014, 12:50 pm
diehipster from Assaulting Addisons says:
Why does one comment from me get Team Smug up in a nasal rage tornado of comments???

Hahahaahhaha - very defensive and very telling.


March 5, 2014, 4:29 pm
John Wasserman from Prospect Heights says:
March 5, 2014, 8:31 pm
ty from pps says:
diehipster.... I don't think anyone was responding to you comment. Did anyone even read it?
March 5, 2014, 10:08 pm
Tychoochnypdallthesameguy says:
Long live Die Hipster.
March 5, 2014, 10:48 pm
NYPD from NY says:
March 6, 2014, 10:45 am

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