emily hawes

'Soft Landing' WIP, 2021

A fin rising on a wide blank sea, 4K Video with audio, 00:15:44, 2021

Ursula K le Guin's 1988 short essay 'The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction' acts as the departure point for 'A fin rising on a wide blank sea', which draws upon the historical story of a 70ft long, 40 tonne blue whale, that was fatally wounded and washed ashore with the ebb and flow of the tide in Boscombe in 1897.

The video begins by documenting the process of reconstructing a fragment of the Boscombe whale's jawbone, using 3D rendering technologies. The replica is akin to a fossilised, yet digitalised ecofact and like Le Guin's carrier bag, untold stories, concerning archiving, extraction and sonic violence within the ocean soundscape emerge from this messy sack.

Within folklore and literature, the whale is as presented as a mythological monster, a water-dwelling dragon or sea-serpent. The musician David Toop suggests that since Roger Payne's 1970 hydrophone recordings, the great leviathan has become an 'unstoppable cliché'. However, whales are more than a projection for the anthropos, they are part of ecological ecosystems; known as 'whale-fall' their oily bones feed benthic communities living in the darkest and deepest parts of the ocean. The scholar Stacey Alaimo suggests that through acknowledging the agency of the more-than-human world, the prevalent practice of "thingification" can be challenged, and prevent the reduction of lively, emergent, intra-active phenomena into passive, distinct resources for human use and control.

The re-telling of the story of the whale on the pier takes an investigative and speculative tone, considering how traces of more-than-human histories can enable us to reconsider ecological assemblages.

'these supple waters' 4K Video with ausio, commissioned by The Old Waterworks, 2019, screened at MK Gallery, 2020

The estuary is a watery commons, a liquid ecosystem composed of multiple actors, organisms, matter & agencies. It is the undefined area in which the freshwaters of the river are entwined with the saline waters of the coastal environment. Also known as an ecotone, it is a shifting & moving meeting place between two biological communities, which are subject to the influences of tidal flows, wave patterns & the flux of salt & sediment.

'these supple waters' was originally commissioned by The Old Waterworks, Southend-on-Sea, 2019. The work resulted from investigations of conservation projects, ecological sites, estuarine communities and industrial histories along the Thames and Blackwater estuaries. Historically, the estuaries in Essex have been used as dumping grounds for the city’s waste, resulting in a "toxic cocktail" of refuse material. More recently, these sites have ceased taking landfill and have been as declared areas of scientific interest due to their complex toxicity.

The video incorporates footage shot in Southend during a research residency and documentation of a choreographic workshop I developed with dance artist Marta Ammendola at Pavilion Dance South West in June 2019. Using material gathered from the residency, such as passages of text, video & field recordings, the work responds to the estuarine landscapes and suggests the slow secretion of a toxic landscape, presenting the body as intermeshed and porous.

'tulpenmanie' screened at OUTPOST Open Film 2019


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