Alex Schweder

Artist's Website

While I am fortunate to work as an artist at a time when language is developing to connect performance and architecture, buildings have millennia long histories of being spatialized scripts for behavior and props for the performance of identity. Though this abridged work sample spans only fifteen of those years, these projects represent my contribution to future conversations around how subjectivity and space continually construct one another.

After meeting during a 2005-6 fellowship at the American Academy in Rome, I began collaborating with performance artist Ward Shelley. During our first project, Flatland at the Sculpture Center in New York, I began using the term “performance architecture” as a way to map the thinking from his field onto inhabitable spaces of mine. Under this rubric we made buildings that were not focused on a finite object, but rather the relationships they create between their occupants. SinceFlatland, Shelley and I have continued our collaboration by building and then continuously living in structures such as Counterweight Roommate, Stability, and In Orbit. Through occupying these extreme structures we are able to more vividly notice changes in our subjectivities that are overlooked or too subtle in more habituated environments.

Other featured bodies of work consider performance architecture from many directions. Among them are spaces that change at a faster pace than most buildings. A Sac of Rooms All Day Long, for example, is a five hundred square foot house with four rooms of an eight hundred square foot house stuffed into it. Rendered at full scale in transparent and black vinyl, the rooms inflate at different times yet never reach full engorgement due to the restraint of the outer skin. Instead, they steal space from one another to make a writhing structure that is itself performing for viewers. This work was the first of many inflatables, which have subsequently used glow in the dark fur, carpet, and toile patterning to entice visitors to increasingly interact with the fluctuating architectural cues for behavior they suggest. Wall to Wall Floor to Ceiling is comprised of twelve forms, six white on the ceiling and six grey on the floor, alluded to new ways of occupation as they pushed each other out of the way. Visitors were encouraged to lay and sit upon the furry areas as they inflated and disgorged, slowly feeling their own weight as they were lifted and then set down upon the hard concrete floor.

Allowing my audience to experience the sensations and feelings that I have while living in the structures I make has led to works such as The Rise and Fall commissioned by the 2012 Marrakech Biennale and The Hotel Rehearsal, featured in the 2013 Biennial of the Americas, a tilting floor in the former and living at a precarious height in the latter. The Hotel Rehearsal is a ten-foot by five-foot hotel room that lifts thirty feet into the air, and is complete with a bathroom, a sofa, and a bed. Foreshadowing the development of parking lots into hotels, this temporary reprogramming of a site promotes the idea that architecture can be rehearsed as well as built.

While at first glance these works might seem divergent in medium and methodology, this text evidences their cohesion through their consistent joining of performance and architecture.