by Kelly Seiz
London-based artist Cally Spooner’s screen adaptation for her live musical, “And You Were Wonderful, On Stage,” explores the nature of philosophy, pop music, current affairs, technological dependency and its relationship to relying on hired help. The audience acts as a part of the production, providing applause and laughter as directed by Spooner and her technical team.
On February 13, the final night of her Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) production residency at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Spooner will be filming her new video production.
The audience’s opportunity to interact with performance art of this capacity makes this event a popular one. Seating is extremely limited, the venue warns, and arrangements must be made in advance. The performance-turned-film will be live-streamed on the Internet, similar to projects Spooner’s done in the past.
In an interview with the Pinchuk Art Centre, Spooner talked about the development of her last project, “He’s in a Great Place!,” which acts as an extended trailer for “And You Were Wonderful, On Stage.”
The space “He’s in a Great Place!” occupies consists of random objects, actors, and screens projecting dancers in sheer tights and chunks of black cloth, dancing with a stuttered grace, each dancer executing the steps milliseconds before the next.
An LED message board displays YouTube comments made on media scandals that occurred during the project’s development relevant to Spooner’s theme of technological dependency, like Beyonce lip-syncing at the presidential inauguration, Lance Armstrong’s steroid use, and the use of political speech writers.
The performance space was live streamed online, segueing between pre-recorded and real-time segments without defining which is which. The opera singer belted out offensive online commentary, interspersed with short clips of dancers and screenshots of the Twitter hashtag “#prism,” with some tweeting about NSA surveillance and others tweeting about Katy Perry’s album.
“100 problems and this bitch is one with her mic turned off,” she belts. “He should have stepped up he should have come clean he is a washed up nobody and he is 100 percent to blame.”
“If I see you I will spit on you.”
Scenes from this older project will be spliced into the final movie form of “And You Were Wonderful, On Stage.”
The combination of pop culture and public commentary made available by the internet is a recurring theme in Spooner’s production.
In an interview with Artsy, a self-described “resource for art collecting and education,” Spooner explained how she was interested in “what happens when our speech and our language is put to work like self-promotion,” namely advertising.
Some other subjects Spooner’s performers cover include the emotional faceless criticisms offered by the online world. In “And You Were Wonderful, On Stage,” Spooner dresses her singers in identical shapeless grey tunics to give the sense of anonymity and bleakness, same as the online chorus of critics.
The film adaptation of “And You Were Wonderful, On Stage” can be seen as the peak of Spooner’s work, considering it’s an amalgamation of projects she’s completed thus far. To partake in the filming process as an audience member is a unique opportunity for artists and art-lovers alike.