Michalina Kacperak’s solo exhibition ‘Soft Spot’

28.04.-18.06.2023. 11.00-18.00

Getting out of the house. An ordinary activity, like going out to do some shopping or to take a walk? Or getting out metaphorically – separating yourself from your family home? Such separation is not easy when you are leaving a home full of contradictions – a place that is both a shelter and a prison, a place that is both cosy and uncomfortable.

Soft Spot is Michalina Kacperak’s personal story. Born in 1993, Michalina is the oldest of four daughters of an alcoholic. Having lived in a dysfunctional family for years, she felt the need to share her experience. She was inspired by the courage and imagination of her youngest sister Zosia, now thirteen years old. At first, Kacperak photographed mostly for herself. She wanted to hug herself as a child.

Zosia has created a safe world for herself in a menacing home. She has turned her room into a colourful shelter. For years, she has covered its walls with drawings, created structures from colourful yarn and pieces of popped balloons, and filled the small space with countless dolls, figurines, toys and games.

The room had resonated in Kacperak for months before she realised that Zosia’s gestures mirrored her own experiences and that, through the place, full of ready-made metaphors, she could tell her own story. Initially, she simply documented the space. Then she began to create her own installations by transforming the original compositions. She quickly began to provoke various actions with Zosia, which led to a breakthrough – jointly made portraits of their father.

Each family member responds differently to Kacperak’s work. The sisters support her immensely, contributing their own ideas. They also work – in a creative way – through their own traumas. Asia, two years younger that the artist, is an actress, and Zuzia, who is twenty years old, makes animated films. To Kacperak’s surprise, the father has accepted his daughter’s actions with understanding. Only the mother feels uneasy about the project. This shared experiencing of the artist’s work affords it another dimension – a therapeutic one.

Confronting the subject of your father’s addiction and growing up in a dysfunctional family requires great courage and openness, especially in Poland, where alcoholism tends to be downplayed, treated as a taboo, shamefully swept under the carpet. However, a long-awaited change is observable in society. The young generation, especially women, are starting to speak out about their experiences. Their voice reverberates in literature, notably in such books as Mireczek by Aleksandra Zbroja or Dom w butelce. Rozmowy z dorosłymi dziećmi alkoholików (House in a bottle. Conversations with adult children of alcoholics) by Magdalena Kicińska and Agnieszka Jucewicz.

Michalina Kacperak’s work makes a vital contribution to visual arts. Invisibility and absence keep recurring in the story, highlighted by the ostensibly sweet aesthetics of the photographs. The artist weaves a multi-faceted narrative about a world in which no one is who they should be. The adults are children and the children are adults. And yet no one in the story is unambiguous. Although Kacperak feels anger, irritation, sorrow, she is also compassionate. Rather than blaming or excusing anyone, she seeks to understand how the machinery behind her family works. She also wants to close a certain stage of her life, to get out of home. Most importantly, however, by exploring her own and Zosia’s experience, she strives to make the message of children of alcoholics heard.

Michalina Kacperak’s artistic practice engages both documentary and fine arts. She holds a master's degree in philosophy and currently is a student at Film School in Lodz in the field of photography. In her work, she applies many imaging techniques, from digital through analogue photography to collages and using archives. The most important part of her work is devoted to personal, complex stories which bring up the themes related to childhood, memory, social exclusion and identity in the broad sense. So far, Kacperak has taken part in several group exhibition in Poland and Lithuania, and she is the laureate of the 12th edition of Circulation(s) festival in Paris (2022). The project Soft spot has been published in OVER Journal (2022) and awarded first prize in the Bartur PhotoAward in the Ann Lesley Bar-Tur Student category (2022).

The exhibition is curated by the latvian artist and curator, the head of Riga Photography Biennial Inga Brūvere, in collaboration with the Jednostka gallery and National Film School in Lodz in Poland.

Riga Photography Biennial program NEXT – 2023 will run from April 27 to July 23. Besides the Soft Spot, it will kick off with the solo exhibition of Latvian artist Adele Bea Cipste titled On Transitions: Impressions of Abu Dhabi at the LOOK gallery from April 29 to May 20. In the first half of May, the program will continue at the Experimental Art Space Pilot of the Art Academy of Latvia and ISSP Gallery. Subsequently, exhibitions will also be opened at the Latvian Museum of Photography and the Gallery of Latvian Artist’s Union. In late May, the city will host a public exhibition of photo art by Ukrainian artist Elena Subach, titled Grandmothers on the Edge of Heaven, at 10 public transport stops from May 29 to June 11. Additionally, the annual publication of RPB will feature a special "pocket" format exhibition titled Safe Light, showcasing the works of nine Ukrainian artists. The edition will be available at the venues throughout the festival.

Along the exhibitions, viewers are invited to participate in creative workshops for children and events dedicated to the development of the photography industry.

For more information please visit: www.rpbiennial.com

Organized by: Riga Photography Biennial in cooperation with Association of Culture Institutions of Riga City Council, Exhibition hall Riga Art Space

Supporters and partners: State Culture Capital Foundation, Riga City Council, Gallery Jednostka (PL), National Film School in Lodz (PL), Rixwell Hotels, Valmiermuiža Brewery, Printing house Adverts, Arterritory.com, Echo Gone Wrong, Noba.ac

Participants: Michalina Kacperak (PL)
Curators: Inga Brūvere (LV)
Text: Katarzyna Sagatowska (PL)
In cooperation with: gallery Jednostka (PL)
Image: Michalina Kacperak, from the series Soft Spot, 2021

Photo by Pēteris Rūcis