The healing effect of Emma Kunz’s drawings

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Despite being the author of around 500 works on paper, Swiss healer and researcher Emma Kunz, who died in 1963, did not consider her large-scale drawings – currently the focus of a group exhibition at the Aargauer Kunsthaus. – like art. Rather, she created them with the help of a pendulum and consulted their geometric patterns in healing sessions with clients with the aim of guessing the causes and treatments of various ailments. Also known for creating tinctures and preparations from plants, herbs and minerals, Kunz’s holistic and interdisciplinary practice, as shown in this expansive exhibition, strikes a chord with a generation of contemporary artists interested in them. knowledge and alternative stories.

Mai-Jeu Perret, Untitled (after n ° 067), 2020, neon signs, 3.5 × 47 m. Courtesy of the artist and Francesca Pia Gallery, Zurich; photograph: Conradin Frei, Zurich

Spread over 13 rooms, ‘Emma Kunz Cosmos’ places 60 drawings by the visionary of Aargau origin alongside works by 15 contemporary artists. The result is a mix of already existing pieces with resonant themes and new commissions inspired directly by the life and work of Kunz. Even the most literal contributions, like that of Mai-Thu Perret Untitled (after n ° 067), (2020), a striking neon version of Kunz’s Work no. 067 (undated), offers a new vision of its subject. As the latest in a trilogy of neon works – with the first two works inspired by Hilma af Klint and Agnes Martin – Perret’s sculpture envisions Kunz as part of a fraternity of abstract painters. A similar historical feminist reimagining is at play in the sculptures by Goshka Macuga, which places Kunz – represented by a head-shaped vase (Emma Kunz, 2020) – in dialogue with the controversial Russian spiritualist Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, whose masked body levitates between two neighboring chairs (Mrs Blavatsky, 2007).

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Goshka Macuga, Emma Kunz, 2020, rubber molding, 29 × 25.5 × 27 cm. Courtesy: the artist; photograph: Conradin Frei, Zurich

Some of the most compelling contributions, however, are those relating to Kunz’s legacy as a healer. In the courtyard of the museum, that of Lauryn Youden Look through a door ajar (2021) is made from limestone from the Emma Kunz cave in Würenlos, which Kunz said had healing properties and ground it into a powder which she called AION A. With an emphasis on medicine Non-traditional as a gateway to possible relief, Youden’s installation, which also contains an audio piece featuring electromagnetic waves emitted from the cave, continues queer artist crip’s own research into survival strategies for coping with a disease. chronic.

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Lauryn Youden, Look through a door ajar, 2021, sandstone from the Roman quarry, Würenlos, black plexiglass, black sheet, variable dimension. Courtesy: the artist

Elsewhere, an entire gallery is devoted to the work of Rivane Neuenschwander The name of fear (2013-ongoing), a collaborative project in which the artist leads workshops with schoolchildren. During these sessions, children’s fears – from atomic power plants to coronavirus – are discussed, drawn, and then used by a designer as inspiration for a charming set of superhero capes that, in Aargau, hang from through the exhibition space like protective amulets.

Can art heal? In an interview published in the exhibition catalog, Neuenschwander does not seem so sure: “I believe in the transformative power of a project like this. However, to speak of healing seems a little pretentious to me. While the artist’s opinion may at first appear to run counter to the premise of the exhibition, it actually mirrors that of Kunz, who described herself as a scholar foremost and rejected the use of the word “miracle” because she believed that such powers and healing abilities lay dormant in everyone. As “Emma Kunz Cosmos” successfully demonstrates, her legacy is not a legacy of cures and cures, but of investigation and study. What makes Kunz’s designs contemporary is that they are – despite the esoteric way they were born – inherently social, building a cosmos that can be used as a source of inspiration for anyone looking for alternative ways of doing it. ‘to be in and of the world.

‘Emma Kunz Cosmos’ is on view at the Aargauer Kunsthaus until May 24, 2021.

Main picture: Emma Kunz, work no. 333 (detail), undated, colored pencil and oil pastel on blue grid paper, 106 × 105 cm. Courtesy of: Emma Kunz Stiftung, Würenlos


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