The cage a Bushwick artist set up as an Airbnb guest room might have gotten the boot from the do-it-yourself hotel website, but it has had at least one return occupant.
Performance artist Matthew Silver spent five nights in the cage Airbnb wouldn’t let artist Miao Jiaxin rent out to adventure-seeking vacationers. Per the terms of staying in the cage now, and before on the short-term rental website, Jiaxian requires that guests remain in the cage for three hours a day, during which time they are not allowed to speak, use electronic devices, or exercise. Silver, who spends his outside time assailing passersby with absurdist love messages while clad in a Speedo, said the mandatory confinement is a useful thought experiment.
“It was about pushing myself to my limits in those three hours and then I had my freedom,” Silver said. “It was very difficult for me because I use the internet for a lot of what I do.”
But Silver said that by the tail end of his stay, he wanted more restrictions.
“It was definitely a test, but then I told Miao he should make it harder and he said it was probably hard enough for normal people,” he said.
Jiaxin first posted the penal pad to Airbnb, a site that allows people to rent out their apartments as hotel rooms, in late June, offering it up for just $1 a night if guests abided by his rules and agreed to be filmed for most of the day.
The six-feet-by-eight-feet cage includes a fake toilet and a real sink, and looks plenty cozy if visitors can overlook the fact that they are in a cage.
Jiaxin has a grand artistic rationale for the voluntary confinement setup.
“I want to de-illusionize the American dream and what is the psychological experience of being in an urban environment,” Jiaxin said. “This is a dream house physically, but psychologically, it is a jail and a cage.”
But the quasi-legal rental service whose executives have spent the past year embroiled in a legal battle with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman proved not eager to take on an avant-garde prison cell as a listing and quickly removed the ad. Airbnb did not ban Jiaxin as a client, though, and he will continue renting out a regular room, as he has for years, he said.
Jiaxin plans to try to rent the cage again beginning on Aug. 1, but says he does not yet know where to advertise.
Silver is an eccentric performer in his own right and said he feels a kinship with Jiaxin and his project.
“It is a metaphor for life,” he said.