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Emma Howes and Justin Kennedy in collaboration with Balz Isler

Venues: Gropius Bau, 11th Berlin Biennale c/o ExRotaprint

Emma Howes and Justin Kennedy in collaboration with Balz Isler

Emma Howes, born 1976 in Richmond Hill, CA – lives and works in Berlin, DE
Justin Kennedy, born 1983 in Saint Croix, VI – lives and works in Berlin
Balz Isler, born 1982 in Zurich, CH – lives and works in Hamburg, DE

Performers Emma Howes and Justin Kennedy are makers of durational trance dances and operatic voice practices, where life and death are interconnected in a perpetual in-between space. The work can be tragic and mournful while also engaged, awake, blissful, and curious. In a smoky room, the light is amplified and diffused, filled with bodies moving to the point of exhaustion and catharsis. Here Howes and Kennedy work together with Balz Isler, who has collaborated previously with Kennedy on mixtape operettas, performative street happenings, and other format-bending pieces, as well as the ongoing music project Apocalypso, which feeds into the current work. The current piece reclaims the value of a live experience that rejects the notion of individual authorship in favor of collaborations that expand towards, with, and for others. Collective communion conquers, generating new possibilities for living, dancing, and even dying together.

Grappling with themes of death, apocalypse, and repression of life-source, UNFURL: a lucid sci-fi opera brings together beatboxing, trance rave, and songwriting workshops at a youth center in Berlin that will give rise to an exalted teen choir. UNFURL: a lucid sci-fi opera beams the public through the story of Empress Alberta and her reflections, transmitted along the Fungoozian Network. The concert is a loud contemplation on darkness, set on Etherland, a mythical planet where songs and movement are vehicles for transforming loss of life and its aftermath. Costumes use a color and prop code system, like military uniforms. In this case, though, clothing is used like a second skin to flip inside out, to hide and alter. These transfigurations are the mocking shadows of war, folding and unfolding. Here, the organic qualities of a bio-world mold and mutate, from person to tree to spirit and automated androidgyny. This is a spiritual and collective expansion of consciousness—ecstatic and spontaneous choreographies that make it possible to connect with other beings.

Amelia Bande

Download the accompanying  zymns zine.

Listen to UNFURL A Live at the 11th Berlin Biennale.


The Canadian participation at the 11th Berlin Biennale is part of Canada’s culture program as Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair. It is supported by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Government of Canada.

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