Alex Schweder and Ward Shelley have been back for yet another round of their particular art scene: performance architecture. These two artists are veterans of the genre they invented, having lived together for short spans in “houses” designed after hamster wheels, climbing walls, and seesaws. This time, it’s a pivot.
“Reactor” is a house, forty feet by eight feet, almost entirely made of windows, and balanced on a single point atop a concrete pillar. In a field at the Omi International Arts Center in Ghent, New York, just an hour north of New York City, they dipped and swayed and wobbled for five days, living in their RV-sized space. It moved with every breeze and with the steps of each tenant, making them utterly aware of one another. Irregular weather had dramatic effects on their daily routines, and the boat-like motion was calming, according to their journal entries, which they shared with the New York Times. A video of their spinning home can be found here.
“Reactor” is only the latest in the pair’s series of co-habitative works. In 2013, they spent six days in “Orbit,” a wheel-like installation where one lived inside the wheel, the other outside, and they had to cooperate to arrange the fixtures for use. In 2011, they performed in “Counterweight Roommate,” a vertical structure that they had to navigate in tandem, being tied together. If one wanted to go up, the other had to go down. “Stability,” which was in Seattle, Washington in 2009, was probably the predecessor-in-spirit to “Reactor,” being two micro-apartments suspended by a chain from a central point, so that the artists’ movements made the structure seesaw wildly.
Although their five-day residence in “Reactor” was in July, the pivot-point house continues to dip and sway in the breeze in the field outside the Omi International Arts Center, and will remain there until 2018. Schweder and Shelley will return in late September and mid-October for two more brief spells in the structure.