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Brooklyn Performance Artists To Make Giant Hamster Wheel Their Home

In Orbit

A diagram of the ‘In Orbit’ exhibition set for a run at The Boiler in Brooklyn. (Credit: Pierogi)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Beginning Friday, two performance artists from Brooklyn will spend 10 days straight running a hamster wheel nonstop – and using it as their house.

Artists Ward Shelley and Alex Schweder will present the exhibition “In Orbit” at The Boiler, at 191 North 14th St. in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. They will spend 10 days nonstop on a 25-foot wheel made from wood and steel – one on the inside the wheel, the other on the outside.

“It looks like a hamster wheel, or a big water wheel, if you will, or a Ferris wheel. And there’s two treadways, and the inside treadway makes the way that the hamster would run it,” Shelley told 1010 WINS.

As the Brooklyn Paper described it, Shelley and Schweder will “eat, drink, sleep, and pee” in the wheel – though not doing each wherever they felt like as a real hamster might.

The kitchen with a mini-fridge, chairs, beds and toilet will all be bolted down in fixed spaces both inside and outside wheel, Shelley explained.

“We’re living on it – that includes everything from cooking and eating and sleeping, and the bathroom. There is a bathroom that is built into the wheel,” he said. “And we are putting everything on there that we need for the 10 days.”

But the artists will not be able to go to the kitchen or bathroom. The kitchen, the bathroom, and everything will have to come to them.

“The guy down below – if he wants to go to the kitchen to get a snack, he walks until the kitchen comes down to him, and the same for the top,” Shelley said. “The thing about it is, is that the people have to cooperate. They have to walk at the same time, and they have to both agree which direction they’re going, and how far.”

A diagram of the wheel showed beds, desks and chairs aligned with one another on the inside and outside of the wheel, so that both men would be able to sleep right-side up.

Shelley and Schweder met while fellows at the American Academy in Rome nine years ago. They began working together in 2007 with four others at the Sculpture Center in Long Island City, Queens on a project called “Flatland” – a four-story “house” measuring only 24 inches wide where the artists – four men and two women – were set to live for three weeks straight.

Only three made it through the full three weeks, according to a news release.

In 2009, they went to Seattle to create reated “Stability,” described by the Brooklyn Paper as a 25-foot house balanced on a seesaw-like structure that tilted back in forth. They went to Basel, Switzerland in 2011 for “Counterweight Roommate,” which involved a self-contained living unit that depended on the artists’ movement.

When the “In Orbit” exhibit ends on March 9, the wheel with its rotating accommodations will remain on view until April 5, the release said.

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