Left: Cally Spooner, A Solo Event for Thinking, Version 4, 2011. Performance View, David Roberts Art Foundation, London, 2011. The Actress (Dulcie Lewis). Photo: Cally Spooner. Right: Cally Spooner, Poster for The Erotics of Public Possibility, 2011.


Cally Spooner’s latest project involves a new body of writing that she is producing over a period of eight months at International Project Space. Titled Collapsing in Parts, the piece also includes a series of events that act as footnotes to the evolving text, which is being published online as it is written; these events will take a variety of forms, including performance, a radio broadcast, and a printed poster. Spooner’s work for IPS continues until March 2012.

AT THE HEART OF MY WORK LIES AN ANXIETY over finding something to say. This anxiety plays out in my theater, film, and writing work, in which I am always looking to achieve an act of live thinking by shifting from an individual or private space into a collective one. Hannah Arendt is central to my research for Collapsing in Parts. In her 1958 book The Human Condition, she explored ideas of publicness and action in public by addressing different thinkers’ historical ideas about whether it may only be possible to perform and achieve excellence in a public sphere.

For Collapsing in Parts, I’m publishing eight parts of writing online, almost monthly, and this public pressure is helping me write. I’m not sure it would be possible to develop this writing in private, so the text goes out whether or not it’s any good. I know it’s a pretty narcissistic endeavor, but I’m interested in the possibility of constant revision, as well as reception in real time, and this seems like the best way of achieving it. This project is about making progress accessible through the idea of having to perform or deliver in front of an audience, while drawing parallels between the pressure to deliver within the workplace and the pressure to do so in the cultural sector, or the world of sports. Various popular and literary characters, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tiger Woods, and President Ronald Reagan, who have had to negotiate the space between private and public life, have all become case studies for my research and appear as characters in the writing.

Human communication today can be very poor in performance spaces such as the workplace, the boardroom, or the classroom, where emphasis can fall on progress based on results, rather than on discourse and speaking. In this project I’m trying to find sites in which to perform the problems surrounding this. Open-form musical scores from the 1950s, by the composer Earle Brown, for example, have been an important point of reference. Even though his works are improvisational, they depend on fixed structures as notated in his scores; this stable framework can provoke countless variations and possibilities. Through these structures, I’ve been thinking about alternative models of organization that have been tailored to heighten creative aptitude and production. In the case of Collapsing in Parts, my stable score is The Human Condition. It provides a textual framework in which a number of people, including actors and friends, can perform and deliver different pieces of work relating to my understanding and application of Arendt’s ideas.

Collapsing in Parts catalyzes thought into action through a kind of double narrative. On the one hand, the project is a catalogue of live footnote events, while on the other hand, these events are simply a subtext to the evolution of the eight parts of writing. The project frames permutations of various movements and conversations as they solidify into work. For instance, the first footnote was a theater piece, the second a printed poster, and the third an exhibition of new work curated through conversation. Footnote four will be a film screening investigating performance, exhaustion, and productivity. When this entire system of research is over, I think the whole project will culminate in a silent film that relies on gestural communication to convey the dynamics of the last eight months.

— As told to James Eischen