For Liste, multidisciplinary artist Chaveli Sifre presents Reverse Alchemy, exploring the mechanization within the human body alongside distillation, extraction, and currency, prompting viewers to reflect on the intricate relationship between our physical selves, societal structures, and the essence of belief.

In real time, Sifre conducts an on-site distillation of coins sourced from various origins—found, donated, or retrieved from wishing wells—infused with locally sourced alpine medicinal plants and aromatic herbs. This unique scented extraction will progressively fill a collection of glass and ceramic vessels, and will be placed along the floor. An array of ceramic body parts, limbs and organs, in metallic tones evokes the spirit of ex-votos, sacred offerings that stand as tangible testimony to miraculous healing. Alongside them, a series of captivating paintings depict the complex alchemical process of distillation, encompassing alembics, steam, condensation, and fire with meticulous detail.

In her seminal book “Caliban and the Witch”, Silvia Federici astutely unveils how a historical transformation towards primitive accumulation and capitalism was accompanied by a relentless "battle against the body.” This labor-power shift marked a significant departure from our collective understanding of the body, perceiving it as a contested terrain where our "lower impulses" and desires were to be eradicated in favor of a stringent "capitalist work-discipline." This mechanistic perception of the body, devoid of soul and reduced to a decipherable machine, facilitated its rationalized exploitation and subjugation. However, this stark view of the body stands in direct contrast to a "magical view of the world," characterized by an animistic conception of nature that recognizes no separation between matter and spirit. In this enchanted worldview, the cosmos is envisioned as a living organism, intricately intertwined and interconnected.

The ritualistic act of distilling currency serves as a potent magical revolt, extracting the latent energy and dormant desires embedded within the very essence of money. This transformative process can be seen as a reversal of alchemy, intertwining the realms of physical and metaphysical extraction, ultimately yielding an aromatic concoction. This mystical elixir is then reintegrated into the sculptural body parts, thus realigning and reinvigorating the power of magical thinking as a profound manifestation of "social insubordination."

Drawing inspiration from traditional religious goods stores found in Latin America called Botánicas, Reverse Alchemy not only encapsulate the dispensation of religious paraphernalia, medicinal herbs, and luck-infused perfumes for love and prosperity, but also reflect the inclusion of services for spiritual cleansings—or limpias—and divination, forming a captivating exploration of cultural heritage and transcendent artistry. By reclaiming the transformative potential of magic, the ritual in Reverse Alchemy reestablishes its pivotal role in challenging societal norms and empowering individuals to transcend the boundaries of conventional belief systems.
© Chaveli Sifre