As promised, artists Ward Shelley and Alex Schweder moved into an old boiler room in Williamsburg on Friday night, where they'll be staying through March 9th. It would be the world's most boring story, were it not for the fact that their home for the next eight days and nights is a gigantic, three-story hamster wheel. It's part performance art, part installation/sculpture, all Brooklyn-circa-2014.

Here are some facts:

  • Shelley lives on the exterior of the wheel (so, basically, at the top, some 30 feet off the floor), and Schweder on the interior, because he's afraid of heights.

  • Everything Shelley and Schweder need, furniture-wise, is fastened to the wheel: bed, desk, kitchen-bathroom combo, comfy chair, lamps, dresser. It looks like everything's from IKEA.

  • Each piece of Shelley's furniture is aligned with its Schweder counterpart. So they both have to work at their desk at the same time, use the bathroom in tandem, they have the same bedtimes, etc. They move the wheel to each station by walking in tandem in opposite directions. They go pretty slowly, for obvious safety reasons, and though it probably would be fun to see them break into a jog, or even go full Streb-style and sprint, that's not likely to happen.


  • About those bathrooms: unless there's an emergency, the artists plan on spending every minute of their ten-day performance actually on the wheel so, yes, in addition to using those portable urinals favored by truckers, they also do their pooping up there. I guess they hold it during public viewing hours? It's unclear who helps them with disposal.

  • Shelley wears a red jump suit, and Schweder's is orange, because that's what they happened to already own when they started the project. Most of their furniture matches their jumpsuits.

They constructed the wheel in The Boiler space, which took them about four weeks. Schweder is an architect as well as an artist, and they both have building experience. However, Shelley said a couple of structural engineer friends checked out their designs along the way, as well as the integrity of the beams from which the whole thing hangs. It would be no joke if the wheel fell.

Both artists are friendly, eager to chat and banter (when asked by some wag if they needed a roommate, Shelley immediately suggested he check AirBnB), and patient with answering the same questions from each group of people who enter the space. They also seem eager to show their audience the wheel in motion, and so they switched stations at least five times in the 20 minutes or so that I observed.

The piece is actually called "In Orbit," not "hamster wheel," and it will be on display at The Boiler—which has an actual, massive, ancient boiler—through April, long after Shelley and Schweder have moved back into their more regular-person homes.