Ward Shelley and Alex Schweder at The Boiler

In Orbit
28 February – 5 April, 2014
at The BOILER, 191 N. 14th St. (Between Berry and Wythe)

Opening Reception: Fri 28 Feb. 7-10pm
Performance Dates:
February 28 through March 9, 2014 – 24/7
Hours: Noon to 6pm
Open all 10 days of performance, then;
Thursday through Sunday, 12-6pm and by appointment
Open LATE: 8 March, 7-10pm for Armory Arts Week

In Orbit was reviewed and covered by national and international news sources including CBS, NBC, BBC, Al Jazeera, Reuters, Huffington Post, etc. View the links here. 


Pierogi is pleased to present an installation and performance by Ward Shelley and Alex Schweder at The Boiler. In Orbit is a 25-foot wheel made from wood, steel, and furniture. Two living units are arrayed over this hamster-wheel-like sculpture, one around the inside of the circumference and another on the outside. The artists will activate this sculpture, as they have in previous works, by living on it 24 hours a day for the first ten days.

Ward Shelley and Alex Schweder met while fellows at the American Academy in Rome in 2005. They began working together with four other collaborators at the Sculpture Center in 2007 on Flatland, a piece that redirected their interests towards the social effects of architecture. Shelley and Schweder went on to produce Stability in 2009 (Seattle), and Counterweight Roommate in 2011 (Basel) to further explore how constructed environments effect subjectivity and the interrelatedness between people.

All three of these installations were built by the artists themselves and were discussed along with historically related work in issue 157 of Frieze magazine, in an article entitled “Open House” by Agnieszka Gratza. She writes of Flatland, installed at SculptureCenter in Long Island City, New York,

“Based on drawings by Shelley, this habitable structure was four-stories high but only 60cm wide, yielding a total of 19.2m² living space shared between six occupants that dwindled to three over the course of a three-week performance…. Physically and emotionally challenging for the performers, who were free to leave at any point but couldn’t then re-enter the building, this piece made a deep impression on the audience who watched them go about their daily routine as best they could within the punishingly narrow confines of Flatland…. It was while working on this piece that Schweder came up with the term ‘performance architecture’ to describe what they were doing. The first in a trilogy of ‘Architect Performed Buildings’ on which Schweder and Shelley worked in tandem, Flatland was followed by Stability … and Counterweight Roommate…. Reminiscent of works by Erwin Wurm such as Fat House (2003), which unlike Flatland could be entered and experienced by visitors (though not in any sustained way), these ‘extreme caricatures of buildings’, as Schweder puts it, were intended to ‘take things that are more subtle and make them large enough for people to see’ – namely how architecture draws implicit boundaries and constructs relationships between us.”

This new work, In Orbit, continues in this vein with the wheel-shaped house. All its furniture and accommodations are fixed along its circumference. To bring the users the things they require during the day, they must walk in tandem to rotate the giant wheel. The artists will live in the structure 24/7 from February 28 through March 9, 2014. From that date until April 5, 2014, the end of the exhibition, the structure will remain on view in the exhibition space as an installation.

This will be Shelley’s sixth one-person exhibition with Pierogi. His performance, installation, and timeline works have been shown widely in Europe and the US. He is the recipient of numerous prizes and residency fellowships including the Rome Prize and a Joan Mitchell Foundation Award, among others. His works are included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art (NYC), Whitney Museum of American Art (NYC), Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (Vienna, Austria), and the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Brooklyn Museum (Brooklyn, NY).

Alex Schweder also won the Rome Prize and is a PhD Candidate in Architecture at Queens’ College, Cambridge. Alex works with architecture and performance art to complicate the distinction between occupying subjects and occupied objects. These projects include, in addition to those already mentioned, Practise Architecture at Tate Britain, Its Form Follows Your Performance at Berlin’s Magnus Muller, A Sac of Rooms All Day Long at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Roomograph at the deCordova Museum, and The Rise and fall in the Marrakech Biennial. The Pollack Krasner and Graham Foundations have funded his projects. Schweder is the author of “Stalls Between Walls” included in “Ladies and Gents, the Gendering of Public Toilets and Performance Architecture” included in Urban Interiors. He is a three-time artist in residence at the Kohler Company and was in residence at the Chinati Foundation.