Emergency in favour of twice
„The divine is everywhere you sense it.“ The first time I heard about Tantra Yoga, it echoed Marcel Duchamp’s Readymades*
The title of this work refers to one particular Readymade. Duchamp mentions Emergency in favour of twice in a letter to his sister Suzanne, yet without giving any further details. No other reference to the work has been found. No one knows what it is or even, if it ever existed.
Emergency in favour of twice revisits the Readymade as a spiritual object, as a catalyst within a spiritual practice. Recent research in Art History suggests that Duchamp was strongly influenced by so-called Eastern philosophies**. Looking at the Readymade through this lens shifts the canonized gesture of Duchamp. It adds another layer of understanding, laying hidden in the sediments of a narrative untold. On the surface, the Readymade has long turned into a highly functional commodity, serving the cynicism and extractive mechanisms inherent in late Capitalisms’ relation to Contemporary Art***
Starting point of this research process is the legacy of Mira Alfassa. Having been active in Paris as an artist in the same period as Duchamp, she is suspected to be the person who introduced him to the teachings of Tantra Yoga. Later in her life she became an influential spiritual figure on the coast of south-eastern India. She was a spiritual collaborator of Sri Aurobindo who championed the idea of a Yoga of Action, or Karma Yoga. Known to her followers as ‘The Mother’, she co-founded the utopian city of Auroville in 1968.
It is there, that Emergency in favour of twice starts its process of reconnecting to the Readymade. Speculating that ‘the Mother’ contributed to the spark which set the Readymade’s Art revolution in motion, the artist sets out to reconfigure the Readymade through repeated/cyclic actions, as the doing/undoing of Karma.
Every action triggers reaction. Countless such intertwined layers create several multiple bonds, reaching through time and space. Thus every work becomes a means of bondage. To what degree is a maker able to let go of their entanglement with a work? Will they be able to devote their practice to a realm such as ‘the divine’, in other words – toward a more-than-human sphere and beyond their own desire?
“My life situation suggests I take this path and leave the one I have been on, turning a corner, turning from skeptic to seeker.”
Through a continuous and daily practice based on making clay objects, the work has turned into a vessel for an undetermined spiritual heritage. Drawing inspiration from mythological narratives and figurations of the divine that bring about destruction to give way for transformation, this piece does its own undoing.
The answer to the question whether the work has ever existed will not be solved. An answer remains suspended while suggesting that over a long-term duration, such practices of (re)connecting and (un)doing may develop the agency to transform existing narratives and shape the destiny of the Readymade in ways a human maker alone would not be capable of.
*a term to describe prefabricated, often mass-produced objects isolated from their intended use and elevated to the status of art by the artist choosing and designating them as such.
** Marcel Duchamp and the Art of Life, adapted introduction by Jacquelynn Baas. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, U.S.A., 2019
*** […] There are other narratives present such as the feminist art collective’s claire fontaine […] “who seeks to clarify [Duchamps] fountain, to reset the terms of the readymade device to suit current conditions. In part such counter narrative mean ”to wrest the Readymade away from its abuse as a luxury object or a mass logo (as in Jeff Koons or Takashi Murakami) or as an inflated prop in a nihilistic acting out (as in Damian Hirst or Maurizio Cattelan).
as part of Protozone12: Syncretic Sites
Frank Hesse is an artist, designer, yoga teacher and father, living in Zurich. After studying at the Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg, he has worked as a researcher and lecturer for the HfbK Hamburg, Hochschule für Kunst Bremen, Zürcher Hochschule der Künste, HSLU Luzern and HKB Bern.
Solo Exhibitions at Adamski Gallery (Berlin), Kunstverein Leipzig, Stadtturmgalerie Innsbruck and Corner College Zürich (selection). Group shows at Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Palazzo Strozzi Florence and Neues Museum Weserburg Bremen (selection). Collections (selection): MACBA, Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (ES), Lemaitre, London (GB), Dalle Nogare, Bolzano (IT), Wessel, Berlin (DE).