Emma Waltraud Howes. The Time it Takes

Curator : Charlotte Lalou Rousseau

From February 10 2024 to May 12 2024

About —

The Time it Takes is the first solo museum exhibition by the artist Emma Waltraud Howes. It aims to highlight the many lines of inquiry that run through her recent practice by presenting a selection of works from between 2012 and 2024.

When Howes was a child, her mother would tell her a version of the story of Sedna, the Inuk goddess of the sea. According to legend, members of a village fled famine in kayaks in search of new hunting grounds. Sedna’s father, seeing her as one too many mouths to feed, threw her overboard. Sedna managed to hang onto the sides of the kayak, but her father struck her frozen fingers with a paddle. Her hands then split into pieces and turned into fish and marine animals as Sedna sank to the bottom of the sea. Since then, she has reigned over all of the ocean’s creatures and seeks vengeance by creating storms that terrorize mariners and influence the yield of their hunting and fishing trips.

Early on, Howes experienced the rigid and formatted universe of classical dance, where subjectivity and personal opinion are unwelcome. And although her fingers weren’t cut off, in some sense, her tongue was. When we lose the ability to speak, how can we be heard? How can we protest what is happening to us? What can we do when we are haunted by the ghosts of the past? The body becomes a space of resistance, the medium through which everything is expressed, and the source of a new language. Howes makes sense of small and great histories by transforming them into fantastic, prolific, and fertile narratives.

In her most recent project, titled Bang Bang Baroque (2024), Howes uses a maximalist aesthetic to compose her own mythology where everything is related: the personal and the political; the relational and the social; the vegetable, animal, and mineral; the imaginary and the tangible; histories and History. Dust from the Sahara desert made from the fossils of thousand-year-old fish is carried by the wind over the ocean and into the Amazon, where it nourishes the forests. In much the same way, we carry in our bodies today the trauma of our ancestors.

For several years, Howes’s work has reflected this interconnection. Her multidisciplinary projects often take root in drawing and speculative choreographic notation before evolving into three- and four-dimensional form. These then perpetually feed off of each other. This intermedial translation process extends over a long time, the time it takes to give shape to movement and life to form.

Howes’s projects generate many kinds of traces. Her libretto for the film Bang Bang Baroque (the aria’s lyrics and choreographic indications) is heavily annotated. A selection of footnotes from this document is included in the labels so that the story of the exhibition can extend the story of the artist’s practice.


Biographies —

Emma Waltraud Howes works as a translator between movement and form. Her interdisciplinary works manifest as multiple reconfigurations of the body and space, informed by her background in dance, performance theory, and the visual arts within the framework of a conceptual art practice. Her labour is guided by the observation of gestures, with a focus on the development of an expanded choreographic practice that incorporates public interventions, kinaesthetic and architectural research, and an underlying drawing component in the form of graphic scores for performances—compositions representative of a stage in the development from concept and intention to depiction and effect.

Howes studied ballet and Baroque opera before becoming a company member with the Canadian Contemporary Dance Theatre (1989-94). She received a certificate in professional training from Toronto Dance Theatre, Toronto (1997), a BFA from Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, Vancouver (2002), and an MFA from Concordia University, Montreal (2009), where she was awarded an international grant to take part in the New Artistic Strategies program at the Bauhaus-Universität, Weimar. During her studies she ran a martial arts school for ten years. She was the Canada Council for the Arts Artist in Residence at ACME Studios in London (2018) and the Conseil des arts et des Lettres Artist in Residence at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin (2014).


Charlotte Lalou Rousseau is driven by the reconciliation of form and content. An enthusiast of all things meta, she likes to conceive the exhibition as an artistic medium and art as a means of understanding the world. She obtained a BA in Art History from Université de Montréal (2012) and an MVS in Curatorial Studies from the University of Toronto (2016). She was curator-in-residence at the Node Center for Curatorial Studies, Berlin (2013), and at MAGO, Eidsvoll Verk, Norway (2015). From 2017 to 2022, she held the position of Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the Musée d’art de Joliette, where she notably curated solo exhibitions by Kevin Schmidt (co-curated by Jean-François Bélisle), Patrick Coutu, and Jean-Pierre Gauthier. Her texts have appeared in Le Sabord, Esse, Spirale, and Artichaut magazine. Rousseau is currently combining her curatorial, critical, and writing practices as she pursues a master’s degree in translation (Université de Montréal).

This exhibition is made possible by the financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Superframe Framing Fund.

Images in the banner:

© Emma Waltraud Howes, Bang Bang Baroque, 2024. Photo: Romain Guilbault

© Emma Waltraud Howes, The Narcissist, or Elsa’s Muse: Performer III, from the series Bang Bang Baroque, 2019. Photo: Romain Guilbault

© Emma Waltraud Howes, Children For or Against the Destruction of Birds series, 2014. Photo: Romain Guilbault

© Emma Waltraud Howes, Bang Bang Baroque, 2024. Photo: Romain Guilbault

© Emma Waltraud Howes, Let All Canons Fall, or Aktualneurosen: Performer II, from the series Bang Bang Baroque, 2019. Photo: Romain Guilbault

© Emma Waltraud Howes, Bang Bang Baroque, film still, 2024. Three-channel film with sound. Performer in photo: Jao Moon. DOP: Kleber Nascimento (Berlin)