Alex Schweder practices what he calls “performance architecture,” installation and event-based work that explores how people comprehend the built environment and how that perception shapes their bodies, social relationships, and desires. The New York artist has designed disorienting exhibitions with inflatable walls, a mobile hotel room perched atop a scissor lift mounted to a van, and home “renovations” that take the form of therapy sessions held inside a storage unit—rather than redesigning living spaces, he advises clients on how to live in their spaces differently. Explaining the unorthodox renovations, he quotes Cedric Price: “If someone comes to you expecting a new house to transform their life, you should ask them if they’ve considered getting a divorce instead.” Schweder received an M.Arch. at Princeton University — Elizabeth Diller was his thesis advisor — and worked as a designer in New York for seven years before focusing on his art practice. (He is currently pursuing a Ph.D at the University of Cambridge, focusing on the performance-architecture idea.) This year, with his frequent collaborator Ward Shelley, Schweder designed and constructed In Orbit, 2014, a 25-foot wheel equipped with two sets of desks, cabinets, chairs, beds, and kitchens. Inside a large Brooklyn warehouse, the duo lived on the installation—one on top, one on the bottom—for 10 days, synchronizing their interdependent movements. Much of his work has an element of humor—if not preposterousness—a condition Schweder cultivates. “When something is funny, or a little ridiculous, people let their guard down, he says. “They become more receptive to new experiences and ideas.”
Video showing Alex Schweder: Wall to Wall, Floor to Ceiling at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, which ran from February 15 through July 26, 2014.