Living In A See-Saw Has Ups And Downs Robert Siegel talks with artists Alex Schweder and Ward Shelley about their collaborative piece, Stability And Other Tenuous Positions. The two have been living for a week inside the 25-foot, see-saw-like structure.
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Living In A See-Saw Has Ups And Downs

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Living In A See-Saw Has Ups And Downs

Living In A See-Saw Has Ups And Downs

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

"Stability and Other Tenuous Positions," sounds like a dissertation on the market in asset-backed debt obligations, and you'll be happy to know that it isn't. It's about something both more accessible and more intriguing. "Stability and Other Tenuous Positions" is an exhibit that opened last Saturday at an art gallery in Seattle called The Lawrimore Project. Artists Ward Shelley and Alex Schweder have a collection of works that blend architecture, performance and visual arts. And the two artists opened their exhibit by living in it. They've spent the past six days living in a small, open-air structure.

It has two beds, one on each end. And then at the center, a kitchen and a bathroom, each with two doors and it stands on a single point, like a house balancing on a see-saw. This is the centerpiece of the exhibit. And joining us near the fulcrum are Ward Shelley and Alex Schweder. Hi. Thanks for joining us.

Mr. WARD SHELLEY (Creator, "Stability and Other Tenuous Positions"): Hi, Robert.

Mr. ALEX SCHWEDER (Creator, "Stability and Other Tenuous Positions"): Hello.

SIEGEL: Ward Shelley first, I want you to describe where you and Alex are right now. What does it look like to you?

Mr. SHELLEY: Well, you can think of it like a house because we're living on it, but it's in a large gallery space, and our structure is hanging from some chains from the ceiling, and it's off the ground. So it doesn't really touch the ground anywhere. And you can tell by looking at it that if we move around on it, it's going to tip like a see-saw.

SIEGEL: And now, if one of you were to go to the bathroom, let's say, at the center, would the other have to go near the bathroom to keep the thing relatively stable, or - how does that work?

Mr. SHELLEY: Well, that's exactly how it works. The person can go to the bathroom without the other, but then the thing inclines to about 30 degrees, and it's not very comfortable, and you spill drinks and things like that.

SIEGEL: I can imagine. Likewise, meals must be coordinated because if one of you went to the kitchen and the other one stayed on the end, you'd be trying to cook at a 30-degree incline, I guess.

Mr. SHELLEY: That's right, exactly. It would be, yeah, kind of a tossed salad, as it were.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: So you've learned to coordinate your lives very closely in this week?

Mr. SHELLEY: Yes. Cooperation has been the main ingredient of this piece, to continue the cooking metaphor.

SIEGEL: Each one of you has a side? You clearly have some territorial division here in the exhibit?

Mr. SHELLEY: Yes, and we haven't entered each other's space.

SIEGEL: Well, let's hear what it sounds like when the two of you - Alex and Ward, why don't you go to your different ends here.

Mr. SHELLEY: Okay.

Mr. SCHWEDER: Normally, we move slowly. So now, I've tipped the structure all the way down, and Ward is going back towards his end, away from the fulcrum, and we're pretty well-balanced.

SIEGEL: Ward, can you hear us over there?

Mr. SHELLEY: Yes, I can.

SIEGEL: At night, if somebody tosses and turns, does that send the other person tossing and turning?

Mr. SCHWEDER: Oh, that's just the worst.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SCHWEDER: That's just the worst. If someone gets up to do something, then your REM slowly - well, rather quickly falls away.

SIEGEL: This is a week-long experience, I gather, so you're about to conclude this weekend. What is the takeaway lesson from spending a week in balance with someone else?

Mr. SCHWEDER: For me, it's been just an absolute eye-opener in terms of cooperation and negotiation.

SIEGEL: And Ward, you agree?

Mr. SHELLEY: Yeah, I would say that competition doesn't improve everything. The cooperation makes a lot more sense in a lot of situations, and maybe most situations. But sensitivity - that's what it's kind of about, too, sensitivity and accommodating the needs of the other guy.

SIEGEL: Well, thanks so much for talking with us today about your work, "Stability," at The Lawrimore Project in Seattle. Alex Schweder and Ward Shelley, good luck to you.

Mr. SHELLEY: Thank you.

Mr. SCHWEDER: Thank you.

SIEGEL: And there's a picture of what we've been talking about at our Web site, npr.org.

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