artist / participant
The Stedelijk Museum will exhibit And You Were Wonderful, On Stage (2013 – 2015), an immersive five-channel film installation by British artist Cally Spooner. This is the first collection presentation originating from a series of acquisitions of works by young artists the museum has followed since the early stages of their careers.
In this work, a musical for six continuously rolling cameras, a black box soundstage and its inhabitants, are recorded in a single take. The mechanics of the shoot (cameras, microphones, mixing boards, chromakey screens and crew) remain as present as the performers they capture. Cast and crew become a constant-motion human backdrop, pragmatically recomposing scene-changes through lighting cues, voice, body movement, or continuous shifts of filmic apparatus and props. The semblance of a post-production edit arrives through the organisation and orchestration of bodies on set.
Distinct groups of performers seem oblivious to one another: an opera singer announces five scenes in the guise of television hosts, a chorus line generate soundtrack at static microphones, dancers -governed by in-ear sound systems produce a repetitive image of movement while technical crew follow shot-lists, which most often privilege empty space and apparatus. As floor managers assemble, dis-assemble then re-assemble uninhabited stage-sets, the production team call cuts to pre-recorded commercial breaks, from a distant control room.
In the installation at the Stedelijk Museum, filmic composition becomes a by-product of a process; where these several well-rehearsed units of performers produce a forty-six minute non-stop motion, which sometimes creates coherency, and at other times does not. The six camera feeds are presented on five screens, with their chronology and technical mishaps left untouched, in an installation that has more in common with a live choreographic event, than cinema.
MORE ABOUT THE MUSICAL
This work has its origins in a commission by the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam’s Public Program. Cally Spooner developed And You Were Wonderful, On Stage, a peripatetic musical, over the course of two years. The piece was delivered by a chorus line of women, gossiping about celebrities, athletes and politicians who have outsourced their performances to a technology, with examples including Beyoncé’s lip-syncing scandal during the presidential inauguration, Lance Armstrong’s Oprah-mediated apology for his use of doping, and speechwriter Jon Favreau’s departure from the White House in pursuit of a career as a Hollywood scriptwriter. The chorus’ libretto was based on meeting notes from an advertising agency, on how to extract personally disclosed stories and aspirations from employees and repackage them to better reflect the voice of their corporation as a tv-commercials.
And You Were Wonderful, On Stage was further developed as a co-production with Performa 13 in New York and Tate Modern, London. In 2014, the Stedelijk Museum permanently committed itself to this work by acquiring it when Spooner was developing the performance into a five-channel installation during her residency at Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC), New York, after a year-long period of public events and temporary exhibitions to develop the film’s composite parts and characters. Now, in 2016, the museum will show the completed work in its entirety for the first time.
MORE ABOUT CALLY SPOONER
Cally Spooner: “I always think living work could be defined by being largely undesigned; allowed to land where it lands, in the margins of last-minuteness. This means that most work that promises to be live just isn't (like Britney's Piece Of Me residency in Las Vegas or Cats the Musical—thirty-four years running). On the other hand, a lot of things that are definitely not considered live can be more alive than anything that is (in theory) living. But I only learned this recently, by making more single-take and first-take films with casts and crews…. “
Cally Spooner (1983) has developed a distinctive body of work consisting of media installations, essays, novels and live performances such as radio broadcasts, plays and a musical. Fluctuating between the intuitive and the bureaucratic, the unplanned and heavily managed, her work grapples with how indeterminacy, instincts, conviviality and less cogent time can be organised and arranged within the linguistic architectures of corporate, mediatised and institutional production. Spooner's work is particularly notable for its plot-less novels, disruptive theatrical plays, circuitous monologues and musical arrangements.
Recent solo exhibitions include THE ANTI CLIMAX CLIMAX (2015, Bielefelder Kunstverein, Bielefeld), On False Tears and Outsourcing (2015, Vleeshal, Middelburg) and Regardless, it’s still her voice... (2014, gb agency, Paris). In 2013 Spooner received the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award; her novel Collapsing in Parts was published by Mousse in the same year. She recently curated the group show Violent Incident at De Vleeshal, Middelburg with Roos Gortzag. In April 2016, her first large-scale US solo exhibition will take place at the New Museum, New York.