TOMASZ MACHCIŃSKI /1942/
ARTIST, PHOTOGRAPHER, PERFORMER, ACTOR, DIRECTOR, MAKE-UP ARTIST, COSTUME DESIGNER, ARCHIVIST. KNOWN AS “A MAN OF
A THOUSAND FACES”, TOMASZ MACHCIŃSKI LIVES AND CREATES IN KALISZ.
He was born in Górki, in the Kampinos Forest as the youngest to the family of six children. His mother died of tuberculosis when he was only 2. His father died in a concentration camp without even knowing his son. Tomasz spent his childhood in orphanages, children’s homes, and hospitals - including the hospital in Kalisz.
He spent several years in the Kamienna Góra sanatorium where he was treated for tuberculosis. After the Second World War, American actress, Joan Tompkins, took care of him by mail. He was able to find his family through the Red Cross when he was about 20 years old.
In his youth, he applied for admission at the Secondary School of Fine Arts in Poznań, but as he writes in his autobiography, he was not admitted, as the examination board was not prone to believe him that πr² is a formula for a square’s area. He was sent to the School for the Disabled in Wrocław to train as a shoemaker. He graduated in 1963 as a precision mechanic, and got an internship as an office machine operator at the Building Materials Centre in Kalisz.
He became interested in photography in 1966 when a friend of his gave him a Russian Smiena 8 camera in return for repairing his Pobieda watch. It was then when he created his first self-portraits with the aid of a camera mounted on a shoe placed on a windowsill. At the beginning, the artist did not have much time for photography due to his work. He implemented his photographic projects on an allotment only seasonally, in spring and autumn. There were breaks in his creative endeavours when he did not have enough money to purchase film and to develop it. Out of the thousands of negatives, half of them have not been developed.
The artist has continued his project, which he treats as an open work, with consequence to this day. He is both the director and the actor, the make-up artist and the costume designer, the photographer and the archivist of his own endeavours. He treats his body as a medium. He has created thousands of photographic self-portraits in which he impersonated popular figures from history, literature or politics, but also, he has brought new characters to life using the simplest techniques and the cheapest props he finds at second-hand shops and at flea markets.
Machciński comments on his artistic strategy: „I have been creating self-portraits since 1966. I don’t use hairpieces, tricks, but instead I use everything what happens with my body, such as: regrowth of my hair, loss of teeth, illnesses, ageing, etc. I have recently been recording my compositions and tomfoolery live.”
Apart from photography, Machciński uses the potential of
a digital camera: he records performances to camera that feature improvised vocal pieces. His photo archive contains more than 17 thousand photographs.
The most recent exhibitions with participation of the artist: „Why We Have Wars? The Art of Modern-Day Outsiders” The Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw /2016/; „Tomasz Machciński But In Colour” Jan Tarasin Art Gallery in Kalisz, „Tomasz Machciński –
A Man of a Thousand Faces”, the Szklarnia Gallery of the Łódź Film School /2016/; „Tomasz Machciński – A Man of a Thousand Faces”, the TAK Gallery in Poznań / 2016/, „I Am Not a Dog Anymore” Silesian Museum, Katowice /2017/.
Films devoted to the artist: „A Child From a Catalogue” by Alicja Albrecht /1994/, „Amateur” M. Nowakowski /1978/, „Incognito” H. Dederko /1988/.