Critics’ Picks

View of “Cally Spooner: On False Tears And Outsourcing,” 2015.


Cally Spooner

Markt 1
June 21–August 30

Imagine sending someone a breakup text and signing off with a sad-face emoji. A nineteenth-century equivalent to this modern-day perversity can be found in Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, (1857) when the womanizing Rodolphe writes his farewell letter to Emma and leaves the ink blotted with ready-made “tears” sourced from a nearby glass of water. Cally Spooner’s exhibition “On False Tears and Outsourcing” takes Rodolphe’s letter as one starting point to investigate instances when emotional excess is employed as a managerial strategy for maximum efficiency and gain.

The first phase of this live exhibition saw Spooner choreograph a sequence for six dancers in which gestures are appropriated from corporate team-building exercises well as rugby scrums—where bodies are interlocked in a collective effort to activate competitive aggression. For the show’s second phase, Spooner hosted a course in method acting for financiers focusing on techniques for producing tears on command, and throughout August she’ll be working with a group of singers on a vocal piece dealing with time-sensitive instructions. If the ideas still feel somewhat sprawling and raw, that’s part of the appeal of seeing new work in developmental stages.

Running parallel to the exhibition is a group show curated by Spooner and Vleeshal’s new director Roos Gortzak. Works by artists including Rosa Aiello, Bernadette Corporation, Andrea Fraser, and Jef Geys further draw out ideas around labor, outsourcing, and the lucrative extraction of affect. The exhibition title comes from Bruce Nauman’s 1986 video Violent Incident, a twenty-eight-second loop installed at the entrance to the show, which brilliantly encapsulates Spooner’s running concern with passionate outbursts becoming purely technical processes.