Madlener House
4 West Burton Place
Chicago, Illinois 60610
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Deadtime, an anatomy study begins somewhere deep and unfathomable between the kidneys and the hips, in a large muscle attached to the bottom of the thoracic spine, just along the lumbar. This muscle is called the psoas. Unlike surface muscles—a quad, a bicep, pecs—which pop out and publicize their presence, you cannot flex or release the psoas. It is buried deep inside. The psoas is regarded as an “emotional muscle,” as it quietly supports gut feelings, and activates desires to handle and hold basic psychological and social needs. Yet, the psoas is widely understood to be the most abused muscle in the human anatomy. Only when it is weakened or stagnant, is the psoas easy to locate, via negative symptoms that present themselves elsewhere: stiff hips, reduced circulation in the legs, locking in the lower back, feelings of sadness, and unwillingness to move.

The doctrine of “performance” creates a society that becomes stratified by how we perform—economically, socially, digitally. We become ripe for consumption, caught in an economy of perpetual readiness. Performance begins in the individual body, leaks into the social body, and then—like a stagnated psoas—creates negative symptoms, elsewhere: measurement, imaged and tracked selves, divisive comparisons, the creation of human currency and capital, self-management, and exploitation. In this climate, ultimately governed by the chrononormative clock that is Western time, basic needs remain unmet and it is increasingly difficult to tell the difference between what is alive and what is dead.

“How can one study the emotional development of society?” asked the pediatrician Donald Winnicott in 1956, adding that simultaneously “[s]uch a study must be closely related to the study of the individual.” At the Graham Foundation, seventeen artworks—including sound, film, sculpture, painting, and installation—that make up Deadtime echo this question over the three floors of the historic building. Throughout the exhibition the independent works overlap and collide, synchronized to a duration of 43 minutes and 59 seconds. Each floor draws out the tension field between the destructiveness of performance, and the possibility of resistance and repair. The works are attached to an inflamed, red psoas muscle, staged as an anatomical, architectural intervention that sweeps through the building’s internal walls and then, ostensibly, recedes. When a psoas is vibrant, it disappears. It vanishes into a dead time, a condition and temporality that presents no symptoms elsewhere, and, in doing so, restitutes life.

Deadtime was first composed by Cally Spooner in 2018 as a 63-page performance score. The project was subsequently conceived as a performance and installation for the Iterationsperformance program at the Art Institute of Chicago in 2019, curated by Hendrik Folkerts. Parts of Deadtime have been shown at Swiss Institute, New York (2019); Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Sint-Martens-Latem, Belgium (2021); Parrhesiades, London (2021); gb agency, Paris (2021); ZERO..., Milan (2022); Pinacotecca Agnelli Foundation, Turin (2022); MOVE Festival, Centre Pompiodu, Paris (2022); O-Overgaden, Copenhagen (2023); and Cukrarna, Ljubljana, Slovenia (2023). Deadtime now returns to Chicago, half a decade later, as the most comprehensive presentation, cocurated by Graham Foundation director, Sarah Herda and Hendrik Folkerts, curator of international contemporary art and head of exhibitions, Moderna Museet, Stockholm.

The exhibition is made possible through the Graham Foundation Fellowship—a program that provides support for the development and production of original and challenging works and the opportunity to present these projects in an exhibition at the Graham’s galleries in Chicago. The Fellowship program extends the legacy of the Foundation’s first awards, made in 1957, and continues the tradition of support to individuals to explore innovative perspectives on spatial practices in design culture.

Opening to the public on February 17, 2024, Deadtime begins with “A Thesis on Spillage, A Symposium-like Gathering”— featuring performances, choreographies, conversations, and lectures by Nuar Alsadir, Marquis Bey, Wendy Brown, Joshua Chambers-Letson, Tony Cokes, Hendrik Folkerts, Melody Giron, Irena Haiduk, Sarah Herda, Darrell Jones, Sanford Kwinter, Ralph Lemon, Maggie Segale, Cally Spooner, and Frances Stark.

Cally Spooner
is an artist who exhibits performances that unfold across media—on film, in text, as objects, through sound, and as illustrated in drawings. Recent institutional solo exhibitions have taken place at Cukrarna, Ljubljana; Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Sint-Martens-Latem; Parrhesiades, London; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Swiss Institute, New York; Castello di Rivoli, Turin; Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève; the New Museum, New York; and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. Her live performances been staged at, amongst others, Tate Britain and Tate Modern, London; Performa 13, New York; the Centre Pompidou, Paris; Museum M, Leuven; and the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), London. Spooner is the author of recent and forthcoming monographs published by Lenz Press and the Swiss Institute (2023); Hatje Cantz (2020); Mousse (2018); and Slimvolume/Cornerhouse (2016). Her novella, Collapsing in Parts, was published by Mousse in 2012. Spooner is the recipient of numerous awards and prizes, including the Paul Hamlyn Award and the Novo Nordisk Foundation’s Mads Øvlisen PhD Scholarship for practice-based art. She was born in the United Kingdom, is British Italian, and lives and works between London and Turin.

Hendrik Folkerts is an art historian and curator. In 2021, he was appointed as curator of international contemporary art and head of exhibitions at Moderna Museet in Stockholm. Prior to this, he worked in curatorial roles at the Art Institute of Chicago; documenta 14, Kassel and Athens; and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.

About the Graham Foundation Fellowship

Synthesizing the Foundation’s grantmaking and exhibition programs, the program acknowledges the investment and resources required to produce an exhibition and invites an artist to create new work that engages the mission of the Graham Foundation—to explore ideas about architecture and its role in the arts, culture, and society. Providing space, support, and financial resources for the production of new work, the Fellowship enables the Fellow to experiment with production techniques and, often, to create work at a new scale. The Fellowship culminates with an exhibition at the Foundation’s Madlener House galleries in Chicago.

The Fellowship program extends the legacy of the Foundation’s first awards, made in 1957, and continues the tradition of support to individuals to explore innovative perspectives on spatial practices in design culture. These initial fellowships provided a diverse group of practitioners a platform to pursue innovative ideas in the field, and they included alumni such as experimental architect Frederick J. Kiesler, painter Wilfredo Lam, Pritzker Prize winning architects Balkrishna V. Doshi and Fumihiko Maki, designer Harry Bertoia, photographer Harry M. Callahan, and sculptor Eduardo Chillida, among others.

Artist David Hartt piloted the contemporary Fellow program with his new body of work in the forest, which premiered at the Graham in the fall of 2017. Later Fellows include Katherine Simóne Reynolds (2023), Barbara Stauffacher Solomon (2022–23), Anna Martine Whitehead (2020–21), Sergio Prego (2020), Tatiana Bilbao (2019–20), Nelly Agassi (2019), Martine Syms (2018–19), Torkwase Dyson (2018), and Brendan Fernandes (2018).