Two New York Artists Living in Human Hamster Wheel for 10 Days

Performance artists Ward Shelley and Alex Schweder are currently roommates – not in an apartment, but in a large hamster wheel. Alex, who is afraid of heights, lives on the inside of the wheel, at the bottom. Ward, who has no such reservations, stays put at the very top, on the outside (180 degrees from Alex). They came into this unique living arrangement last Friday and plan to continue until March 9th.

Ward and Alex are actually in the middle of an art project that they like to call ‘In Orbit’. They are on display at The Boiler, a performance space at a New York’s Pierogi gallery. It took them four weeks to construct the 30-foot tall, 60-foot in circumference hamster wheel themselves, with a little help from engineer friends. The gigantic structure is suspended from the ceiling and has furniture fastened to it on the inside and the outside. Ward and Alex each have a bed, a desk, a kitchen-bathroom combo, a chair, lamps and a dresser to use.

Every piece of furniture is aligned to its counterpart, so both inhabitants of the wheel have to use the bathroom at the same time, work at the same time and go to sleep at the same time. To change the furniture setting, they simply walk on the wheel in opposite directions, moving it until the next station arrives. For safety reasons, they walk very, very slowly.


Photo: Scott Lynch / Gothamist

Sounds like a really bizarre way to live, even for 10 days, doesn’t it? Well, Ward and Alex are actually trying to make a point. “We’re living on a big wheel that’s essentially a two-bedroom apartment,” said Alex. “It’s really an exploration of what it means to collaborate. It’s an exploration of trust between two people.” Both men said that they knew it was not going to be an easy experiment, but they’re trying to stay mentally tough. It’s really important for the two artists to coordinate well, because one wrong move and they could end up with broken necks.


Photo: Scott Lynch / Gothamist

“I wasn’t prepared for this. Perhaps I should have been,” said Ward. “Sleeping is a kind of refuge. There’s psychological pressure here being in this thing so when you get to sleep it’s easy to stay there.” He also added that they chose 10 days because that’s “a number you can hold in your mind and count down. It’s like being told to stand in the corner when you’re a kid.”


Photo: Scott Lynch / Gothamist

Onlookers at the gallery get to see Ward and Alex in action on the wheel. They move the wheel for a few seconds at a time. Sometimes, they can be spotted making omelets and sausages, working at their stations, or answering questions from the audience. Visitors have remarked that the duo are pretty eager to show off what their wheel can do.


I’m not sure if they make a display of using the restroom as well, or choose private hours for their ablutions. Also, who helps them dispose their waste when the tank is full? Well, I suppose there’s no room for such silly questions where art is concerned. But wouldn’t it be fun to watch them run like real hamsters on the wheel, just once?

Source: Gothamist

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