Cally Spooner

Dancing Still Life on a Single Breath
19. 10. 2023—07. 01. 2024
Basement space
Cally Spooner

Curated by Mara Anjoli Vujić

Cally Spooner is an artist living and working between London and Turin. She exhibits performances that unfold across media, such as film, sound, text, object, drawing or painting. At the core of her artistic practice is an interest in topics of the emergent and the unrepresentable, which she explores primarily through the dynamic temporality of her artworks...

The solo exhibition Dancing Still Life on a Single Breath is the most recent exhibition in the long-term art project Deadtime, which the artist began developing in 2018. For Cally Spooner, “deadtime” is a kind of temporality and an event that is chrononormatively inactive and therefore holds the potential to regenerate life. The exhibition is conceived as a multimedia spatial installation consisting of four sound and visual works. For the sound work, Dancing Still Life on a Single Breath, and for the exhibition as a whole, Spooner used the architecture of Cukrarna’s basement gallery as a scenographic backdrop, in front of which a choreographed dance solo flows in; a dance which is entirely sonic. Danced by Spooner’s long-term collaborator, Maggie Segale, the choreography of a still life transitions from the field of the visual to the medium of sound. Maggie’s body is wired with microphones, which record her breathing and heartbeat as she holds her body in a still, awkward and gruelling pose, culled from the Instagram profiles of the world’s selfie-taking celebrities, and equally from images of advertised food. Maggie cancels her breath for about 40 seconds, in an attempt to get closer to a perfect (still) image. Then she starts catching her breath, her breathing deepens, the volume increases, her pose decomposes, and finally she lies down on the floor, breathing heavily, and comes “back to life.” The choreography, composed of entering the pose, breaking the pose and dismantling the pose with respiration, is repetitive and lasts exactly 43 minutes and 59 seconds. It is contained in a spatial sound installation, which is offered to the audience as an immersive atmospheric work, absorbed in the state of breath. On this occasion we don’t see Maggie’s dance, but somehow the body seems even more present when its image vanishes. On the other side of the gallery space is a sound work entitled Melody’s Warm Up. The loudspeaker plays sounds of elite cellist Melody Giron rehearsing Bach’s Cello Suite No.1 in G major. But Melody plays only a part of the suite, the prelude, and is trying to find her tone. The ending is annulled, its beginning returns again and again and emphasises a state of constant preparation. When it is played, the gallery becomes an enormous resonance box, and the reverberation of other sound works in its proximity is incorporated into the score. These two sound works are synchronised in the exhibition with the same inexorable repetitive digital beep, triggered every 42 seconds as a timekeeper. Thus, it becomes a soundscape and a looming backdrop on which the whole exhibition is based, an agitator, yet equally an element that holds together the different parts of the composition. In the works, what is foregrounded is that which is usually left out, or edited away; in this way, the warm-up, repose, rehearsal, body-labour, and preparation for the performance become the main event, the focal point of the action. This procedure is further developed in Screen Test for the Psoas Muscle; an attempt to imagine the most central, yet widely abused muscle in the contemporary human anatomy – the psoas muscle – a muscle which (unlike a bicep or a quad) is not available to the eye. The psoas is responsible for upright posture, freedom of movement, as well as the circulation of emotions. This mysterious muscle is most vibrant when it finds slackness, micro-multidirectional movement, and when it, essentially, disappears. Spooner endeavours to imagine the psoas through a mural, which reveals then erases an inflamed red image in an anatomical-architectural set design.

The installation is completed by the Fainted Pears series (2022–2023), a set of three hyperrealistic small-format oil paintings of a pear in the style of “selfie culture,” each with its own spotlight. In each version, the object is slightly adjusted, as if in search of the ideal angle for its viewing. Yet the ideal image of a pear is impossible, as any attempt is thwarted by the shadow of the visitor as they approach the work. With this last element, the artist emphasises the choreographic approach to the exhibition’s design, as each element acts as a choreographic sequence that plays out ideas of the inclusion of human and non-human bodies; they intertwine and confluence to form a whole, open to unexpected potentials of expansion. With all the individual works of her multimedia project, the artist explores possible alternative temporalities and offers a reflection on the hypothesis of resistance to the finite execution of a performance, which could further defy chrononormativity and the social dictates of constant productivity.

Opening hours

Tuesday to Sunday: 10.00–19.00


Adults: 3 €
Students, retirees, visitors with disabilities: 2 €
Family ticket: 8 €
Admission free: children 7 and under, ICOM, PRESS

With the support of: O-Overgaden, Kopenhagen/Copenhagen; gb agency, Pariz/Paris; ZERO…, Milano/Milan