Friday, March 27, 2009

Stability and Other Tenuous Positions

Alex Schweder and Ward Shelley are currently sequestered in Lawrimore Project for their latest collaborative exhibit, Stability and Other Tenuous Positions. The artists are wrapping up their one week exercise in "performance architecture" where they have been living 24 hours a day on a 5' x 25' structure (Stability) which hangs from the gallery's ceiling. Each movement Alex makes directly affects Ward and vice versa. I can't even begin to imagine how quickly that would drive me nuts. They, however, seem relatively unphased by it all and were nice enough to answer a few questions I sent over to them.

Stability, 2009 (image via Lawrimore Project)

Hi fellas. At 6pm today, you hit the 24 hour mark -- does it feel good to be winding things down?

AS: In certain ways it does, but the whole experience went really fast. I am looking forward to seeing other people the most, but we have actually found ways of making ourselves comfortable in here.

WS: To tell you the truth, it is going by too quickly. It took a while to get adjusted but now we're really getting to enjoy being up here. It's a vacation from all our normal responsibilities. Plus we have lots of friends dropping by.

Flatland (image via Alex Schweder)
How did your collaboration on Flatland lead you to Stability? How do you feel the two pieces relate to each other?

AS: Before we started Flatland, I expected that the building would change visually as a direct result of our occupation. The reality was that the space was too tight for us to even renovate it in order to make it more comfortable. After Flatland and we were evaluating the work, and wanted to make another project that would change visually through its occupation. Also in Flatland the relationships between us was a real important part of the piece that was not visible to our audience and we wanted to make that visible as well. With Stability we have been able to achieve both of these.

Both of these works are performances. The script of each is the same, live your life as normally as possible. Both works, by being architectural caricatures, also set up situations that will change the behavior of those who occupy them. The variables are the architectural space, the duration, and the number of people.

WS: Both pieces are special kinds of architecture in which the shape of the structure strongly effects the life and the behaviors going on inside. They are pretty radical in that way. Flatland had 6 people living inside it, so there was this social dimension to the piece. And it raised issues about the effects of sharing life within severe limitations. Stability addresses questions that came out of Flatland in a very schematic way. People can see the problems right away just by looking at the structure and the fact that it is two people makes it that much clearer.

(image via Lawrimore Project)

Once your architecture performance is completed, what happens to the piece Stability? Will it remain in the gallery? Do you have someone lined up for week two?

AS: The piece will remain in the gallery unoccupied as a kind of performance collateral. The work will take on a new dimension then. After we finished Flatland, the director Mary Ceruti, speculated that that is when Flatland would be the best viewing experience for visitors. There would be a greater ability for them to empathize and project themselves into the piece without the distraction of a live person. Visitors would need to fill in the occupation that is no longer present with what they imagine.

WS: Stability will remain in place in the gallery, along with most of our stuff, the stuff we used while living there. All that stuff will allow people to imagine what it is like to live up here; in fact, maybe it will be easier to imagine it, in a more thoughtful way, than when we are right here in your face, forcing you to be polite, not stare too much, and so forth. There is also some video documentation in the gallery showing us on the piece, as well as a number of other works, some of which are closely linked to Stability thematically.

Our Weight Around Us, 2009, by Alex Schweder (image via Lawrimore Project)

You are literally on display in a gallery. What's been the biggest surprise?

AS: There were not too many surprises about public occupation since we performed Flatland. The biggest surprise was last night when John Sutton and Ben Beres showed up in the middle of the night. Maybe they wanted to see if we were really staying in the structure or just saying we were. Anyway we were in here just doing our thing. [I can totally imagine SBC taking over Stability in some sort of Sealand fashion after your departure!]

WS: We are the first thing you see when you walk in the door. The front gallery is huge and the piece looks a lot more spectacular than I expected.

Finally the gallery cat has decided its okay to come up with us, and that has been an unexpected pleasure too.

Plumbing Us, 2008, by Alex Schweder (image via Lawrimore Project)

What was the first thing each of you missed? Sunlight? Privacy?

AS: A shower or bath.

WS: I think that both of us would agree that a hot shower is the first and most continually missed amenity. All the more because we had such a nice one in Flatland. Sunlight is not an issue though; I am right under a skylight.

Carolee Schneemann Chart ver. 2, 2006, by Ward Shelley
(image via Lawrimore Project)
There are still items left on your "Needs List" -- any last minute requests? Perhaps a kind soul could swing by with Hing Loon's Salt & Pepper Squid and a fine red?

AS: I love Salt and Pepper Squid.

WS: We have a fully stocked larder by now. People have been super generous - no Salt and Pepper Squid yet though. But that is probably the only thing no one brought. Come by for a glass of pinot if you are in the hood.

Installation view (image via Lawrimore Project)

For more information, swing by the gallery or listen to Jen Graves' podcast with Alex here.


Troy Gua said...

Great job Joey - you are gifted my friend.

Aja said...

I adore this.