You may think you lived in a cramped apartment, but what would it be like to share a four-story, clear vinyl tenement no wider than your shoulders? A group of six international artists is 15 days into a radical experiment in "two-dimensional" living. FLATLAND is a piece of performance art being staged over a three-week period at the Sculpture Center in Long Island City, Queens. Attempting to carry on their individual work while adapting to the strange environment, the artists who inhabit the transparent structure have kept a blog of their experiences thus far.

IMG_8401_pellepaul-sm.jpgGothamist attended the opening reception April 29 to interview several of the artists, including Douglas Paulson:
Gothamist: Is there a central question guiding this project?
DP: Originally it started as, "Is it possible to live two-dimensionally?'" We'll see. But to my mind it's also a social experiment.
G: Yes, because there are six of you.
DP: Right. there are six of us, we know each other many different ways going in. Some people didn't even meet until we were here in the building. All of a sudden you have to climb over somebody to get to the bathroom. It is a real experiment in that way.
G: Is this project all about process, or will you produce something concrete at the end to document it?
DP: We'll be adding stuff to the website and the Wiki page, and doing some writing. We're also producing art work, maintaining our lives, which will also be an experiment.
G: Do the six of you have a house favorite beer?
DP: Actually, if you're up for it, you could go and get us three beers and say it's for the Flatland people. Or actually if you get us four, you could have one.

07_05_flatland-antfarm2.jpgOver the past two weeks, the strains of living in Flatland have been steadily revealed. The architect Ward Shelley wrote on May 4, "I see (smell and hear) way more than I want about the habits of the others I am flat with. The design of the space constructs us in a way that departs from how we culturally understand ourselves (autonomous, private, and with options for movement). After six days in Flatland I feel more like a pet than a person." On May 8, Pelle Brage became the first Flatlander to exercise his irreversible option to escape back into spaceland, i.e. the three-dimensional world.

Contemplating the final week of the experiment, Maria Petsching wrote on May 13, "For me I know it’s been the daily Yoga & Pilates training that has prevented me from going crazy in here." Alex Schweder speculated grimly, "If I were to take off my skin and stretch it over my [16-sq. ft.] floor, I would have some skin left over." Yet the artists have also recorded some epiphanies, such as Eva La Cour's notion that survival can sometimes depend on "inventing new mechanisms of interacting and surviving in one's mind."

07_05_flatlandbathroom.jpgFLATLAND tests the current fashion for glass-sheathed luxury residences against a more relentless kind of voyeurism overlayed with severe limits in space and time. The sublime openness of a Miesian glass box meets the chic claustrophobia of an Andrea Zittel Escape Vehicle. The utopian ideal of an artistic commune begins to resemble a lost hipster episode of MTV's The Real World. While Flatland calls to mind performance art of the 1970s, the endurance trials of David Blaine, and the fascinating allure of an ant farm, the project was actually inspired by an 1884 science fiction novella by Edwin Abbott Abbott. In this Victorian satire, the characters were literally two-dimensional forms such as circles and triangles.

More information about Flatland and the six individual artists is available here.