Mi Kafchin. Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

12 Nov 2016 – 14 Jan 2017

Galerie Judin

Berlin, Germany


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With the works being shown at her first solo exhi­bi­tion at Galerie Judin, all cre­ated in 2016, Kafchin has under­taken an auto­bi­o­graph­ical search for traces, be­gin­ning with her child­hood and youth in Roma­nia.


Around ten years ago, a group of young Roma­nian artists, known as the “Cluj Connec­tion”, took the interna­tional art world by storm. They all shared a profound technical train­ing and far-reach­ing sys­tems of ref­er­ence in art history. As an assistant of the painter Adrian Ghenie, Mi Kafchin (b. 1986) came to this loosely knit group shortly after fin­ish­ing her studies. Her technical and thematic enjoy­ment of exper­i­menta­tion dis­tin­guished her from her fel­low artists in the group. She took on a broad spectrum of artis­tic means of expres­sion, stretch­ing from draw­ing and paint­ing to sculp­ture and expan­sive installa­tions. At the same time, she devel­oped a canon of motifs rich in con­trasts that reflects the collage-like visual worlds of our media age like a kalei­do­scope: this fusion of art history and quota­tions from pop­u­lar cul­ture resulted in a ten­sion-filled visual program. Recently her range of issues has under­gone an auto­bi­o­graph­ical expan­sion. Mi Kafchin, who grew up in a male body under the name Mihuț Boșcu Kafchin and over the past sev­eral months has been under­go­ing the pro­cess of sex reas­sign­ment, has now integrated her own and other con­struc­tions of gen­der and identity into her work. With hormone ther­apy, Kafchin’s color per­cep­tion has also changed: she has left behind the bro­ken col­ors of past cre­ative per­i­ods and now embraces a vibrant palette.

With the works being shown at her first solo exhi­bi­tion at Galerie Judin, all cre­ated in 2016, Kafchin has under­taken an auto­bi­o­graph­ical search for traces, be­gin­ning with her child­hood and youth in Roma­nia, which she stages as an age completely cut off from the pre­sent. While Black and White Danube points out to sculp­tures in pub­lic space as the stim­u­lus for her artis­tic career, Fish­ing for Souls and Purple Rain depict a Roma­nian soci­ety shaped by ortho­dox belief and occultism. Turn­ing away from these social repres­sions, Kafchin sought sta­bil­ity in the heroes of art history, which she asso­ciated with her own search for comple­tion. Kafchin has now trans­posed her inner turmoil of that time into allegor­ical motifs that ini­tially seem like Dutch sea pie­ces or scenes from Chris­tian iconog­ra­phy. The paint­ing Hell Fueled by Thoughts, which borrows from rep­re­senta­tions of purgatory, artic­u­lates in a comprehen­sive painterly way how Kafchin’s mental self-reflec­tion took on self-destruc­tive traits.

With works like The Tempest and Me As Phantom Ship, Kafchin achieved a compelling allegor­ical visual program for her inner and outer exi­gencies. She also did not shy away from explic­itly visu­al­izing the tor­ment she felt trapped in the wrong body.

Kafchin’s reflec­tion on her transforma­tion pro­cess opens with Afraid of Dying, which still pre­sents a male torso surrounded by scaffold­ing. The works Franzl, The Fifth Ele­ment and With the Help of Mendeleev all assem­ble the arsenal of the nec­es­sary med­ica­tion. Packed with symbols, these and other works mark the start of a new world order. As in Fish­ing for Your Zodiac, Kafchin chose astro­nom­ical coor­dinate sys­tems and the Zodiac as symbolic of her own repo­si­tion­ing in time and space. The paint­ing Trying to Be Beau­tiful shows just how painful the pro­cess can be. A green dragon emblema­tizes the dis­crep­ancy between inner and outer appear­ances. With pow­der and a jew­elry case, this fig­ure tries in vain to meet the female ideal of beauty, but due to his size, he can’t even look prop­erly into the mirror. The fig­ure of the dragon is one of numer­ous symbols that Kafchin has cho­sen for her own pro­cess of transforma­tion. They come from Roma­nian fairy tales and Euro­pean art history. For exam­ple, Kafchin took up the rep­re­senta­tion of the Fountain of Youth, pop­u­lar in the works of the Old Mas­ters, as a tra­di­tional emblem of ide­als of beauty, transience, and pro­cesses of transforma­tion. But Kafchin’s Fountain of Youth not only depicts the expected external transforma­tion. The much more important transforma­tion is alluded to with the three fish placed on the left mar­gin of the image: this is a ref­er­ence to species of fish that are able to change their gen­der under certain con­di­tions. Kafchin’s other fountain motif, Divine Pipes, leaves out such transforma­tions entirely; by studying the con­struc­tion of the fountain, it asks about its pre­req­ui­sites. Where does the water come from and when does its efficacy begin? Kafchin’s fountain motif thus combines the nat­u­ral and med­ical-technical require­ments of her own sex reas­sign­ment metaphor­ically.

The thematic trio of beauty, change, and fleet­ing­ness runs like a thread through­out Kafchin’s oeuvre, often cul­minat­ing in van­itas motifs. Hungry Time, for exam­ple, pre­sents time per­son­i­fied, devour­ing not just a breakfast egg but an entire planet. The paint­ing The Death of Toma, which arranges rubble in a surreal state of uncertainty against a nearly monochromatic backdrop, is in turn ded­icated to the Roma­nian actor Toma Caragiu, who died at the pinnacle of his career in an earth­quake.

In her most recent works, Kafchin has given form to her own fears and hopes in a coura­geous and touch­ing way, but also abs­tracted them as foun­da­tional ques­tions about our human exis­tence. These works open a debate about the artist’s own ide­als, con­tra­dic­tions, and pro­cesses of transforma­tion. The artist formu­lated the goal of her own transforma­tion in a small group of terracotta sculp­tures. Bozetto, for exam­ple, pre­sents a cave-like, mag­nif­i­cent head of female hair as a site of refuge. The longed for bal­ance between inner and outer oppo­sites that the works in this exhi­bi­tion always pursue is ren­dered by the yin-yang symbol that appears in many works.

The lat­est stage of Kafchin’s transforma­tion can be read from two large-format, metaphor­ical paint­ings. The Self-Suf­ficient Plant, for exam­ple, shows a frag­ile plant that ini­tiates its own time of flow­er­ing. A Self-Fulfill­ing Prophecy, the largest work in the exhi­bi­tion, pre­sents a blonde beauty ascend­ing to the top of Mount Ever­est in the company of heavy machin­ery. While she approaches the last stretch of the ascent with the help of per­son­i­fied nature, the weath­ered skeleton of a male climber is left behind in the snow as her alter ego. It is an emblem­atic trip back to her­self that Kafchin already dreamed of in her youth. Magic words were sup­posed to make her wake up the next day in the right body. The fact that she now finds her­self in a pro­cess of phys­ical self-becom­ing is some­thing that the artist under­stands as a self-fulfill­ing prophecy.

Exhibiting artists

Mi Kafchin


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