Sometimes a déluge is a wash-over. Sometimes it’s an entire marine playground made of all the matters the water absorbs on its way. Sometimes is both. On the surface, however, the floating debris obscures the world below – a whole living environment rousing yesterday’s ruins. Before the corporative landscape and the hot-spot art scene, there was the Tethys Sea all over today’s city of Cluj. Geological strata keep the score of this water-bearing, spread in tiny fossils and calcareous rifts. Within a blue-infused space, Hortensia Mi Kafchin and Flaviu Rogojan conjure this story as a shared root for their recent duo show, Déluge, at Zina Gallery.
Mi Kafchin sets enticing seascapes in a mix of old and new paintings. Corals, memorabilia, and ghostly beings bloom in what the weight of the memory shows as decay, luring you deeper into the blue, always richer. Across representational forms, the works spiral back in those transformation processes which, candidly and fleshy, have come to inform Kafchin’s practice. Their reverberations are always on the body and vivid forms of self-identification. As the artist walks the line between suggestion and ambiguity, in beautiful ruins, growth intertwines.
Gaia in a Bathing Suit performs this most hauntingly, as a nymph channeling her restorative energy in mythoi of both motherhood and female mirroring. Tellingly, suit finds its core in the Latin ‘habitus’ as all that we carry – ours and not ours alike –, along with a disposition of the soul. In extenso, it points to habitat within all its geographical, climatic specificities. As clothes can shape our reality, this is then a suit for bathing, anew, amidst a wetland of residues, manifold times, and localities.
Water’s transformative agency imbues Flaviu Rogojan’s new body of works, entangling the weird and the eerie. Rogojan places concept at the core of his practice. And, as it’s often the case with his works, one has to ask about their stories. In the guise of crossover-fanfiction, the series intertwines two seemingly different worlds. Subtracting the mischievous oozing water from the 90s short-lived animation, Pirates of the Dark Water, Rogojan opens the story to the sentient ocean planet in Stanisław Lem’s Solaris. Then re-places this double through garnered local fossils.
Cross-fiction, as a tool for narratives, holds space for other stories and can twist narratives beyond their normative understandings. Deluge Earth, for one, renders the sentient ocean to the diagram of Jakob Scheuchzer, a 17th-century ‘flood geologist’ for whom the ‘human’ world starts with a Diluvium Tremens. Ironically, the humanoid remnants supporting his flood thesis turn out to be that of a salamander, shifting thus the human-centric view about the inheritors of our ‘world-building.’ As Lem’s ocean creates complex structures that go beyond water sights, Rogojan inquires if the oozing dark water couldn’t be, in fact, the oceans’ hallucination (if not manifestation)? And maybe, one could add, we ourselves are staring at it.
Intersecting narratives, the two artists set a kaleidoscope-like perspective, generating new sensual horizons of meaning. However, within its cohort of self-references and candid images, the show remains mainly on the poetic side. A metaphorical quest that feels like swimming in a tank – immersed yet isolating. If our everyday lives are indeed drowned in a sea of information, from mnemonics to cyber-networks, this fluidity turned out to be only apparent and highly problematic. Just as how water is memory and its rituals, touch on a haunting history of violence. Déluge only lightly scratches the surface of this water mirror, yet, in its moody repertoire, fashions nevertheless a space of encounter, for a hunch of what lies in that imagined deep end.
The group show Déluge took place at Zina Gallery in Cluj Napoca during 14:05 – 27.06.2021.
Edith Lázár is an independent researcher (fashion theory), curator, and art writer based in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. She is the co-founder and part of the curatorial collective Aici Acolo – a project...