Across various forms and artistic disciplines, Maheke has sustained a long-term exploration into the ways that marginalised bodies, narratives and histories are made visible and invisible. Resisting a probing of identity that sits solely within the framework of identity politics, Maheke’s trajectory has continuously been channelled through spectral sensations. The artist has called in ghosts, spirits and non-human beings into his works to invite a re-orientation to the way that we, the audience, are able to perceive; which is to say, to reframe the way that we are able to see, feel and listen.
In reconfiguring the sensible, Maheke seeks to shift the dominant systems of discourse production and understanding that heavily depend on representation, visibility and legibility as the ultimate forms of truth, value and/or power. Instead, the artist nurtures the formation of a self through a state of in-betweenness; one where esoteric, spiritual, queer and embodied knowledge(s) help Maheke garner the potential for prophecy.
For the artist’s first solo exhibition in an institution in France, at Triangle in Marseille, Maheke invoked OOLOI, the third sex figure among the extra-terrestrial Oankali from Octavia Butler’s sci-fi trilogy, Xenogenesis. This fictional – yet, for all purposes here, real – entity infused the space with a heightened sensory field; one in which words, light, sounds and even subtle movements nodded to its invisible presence. Of particular sensory effect was the waving of sheer scarlet curtains that hung floor-to-ceiling across the vast expanse of La Friche Belle de Mai. Partitioning and dividing a physically vacuous room of the former tobacco factory, the curtains created a depth of field that blurred vision.
Maheke’s own body appeared and disappeared through these curtains as part of Sènsa (2019), a performance that saw the artist moving across the space, making himself at times as faintly visible – yet as palpable – as OOLOI. Both through his strategies for (dis)appearance and the seemingly improvised nature of his movements, Maheke’s Sènsa undoes the Western canon’s efforts of devaluing the transcendental by insisting on what is felt over what is seen; by being trusting of what the body and mind know, over what it has been asked to learn.
Paul Maheke, Taboo Durag, 2021, A light barrel in a river’s mouth, Glasgow International, UK
Courtesy the Roberts Institute of Art, Glasgow International and the artist
Photo: Eoin Carey
Paul Maheke, Exhibition view, "The Mauve Hour", 2021, Sultana Summer Set, Arles, France
Paul Maheke, Vanille Bleue, 2021, Goodman Gallery Johannesburg
Paul Maheke, Exhibition view, "Vanille Bleue", 2021, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
Paul Maheke, Exhibition view, An apology, a pill, a ritual, a resistance, 2021, Remai Modern, Saskatoon, CA,
Exhibition view, « Clinique du Queer », 2020-2021, Maison Populaire de Montreuil, © Aurélien Mole
Exhibition view, « I LIKE THEM, THEY'RE NICE », 2020, Nir-Altman
Exhibition view, « Possédé.e.s », 2020-2021, MOCO
Exhibition view, « The Spectral Forest », 2020, Nida Art Colony, Neringa, Lituanie. Photo : Ansis Starks
Exhibition view, « La Pleine Lune Dort La Nuit », 2020, Musée d’art contemporain de la Haute Vienne, Rochechouart
Installation view, "HERE AND NOW - Transcorporealities" 2019, Museum Ludwig, Photo: Rheinisches Bildarchiv Köln / Nina Siefke.
Exhibition view, "OOLOI", 2019, Triangle France - Astérides, Friche la Belle de Mai, Marseille, Photo: Aurélien Mole.
Exhibition view, "21e Prix Fondation d’entreprise Ricard : Le fil d’alerte", 2019, © Aurélien Mole / Fondation d’entreprise Ricard
Seeking After the Fully Grown Dancer deep within, 2016-2018. Performance part of Meetings on Art, 58th Venice Biennale, 2019. Credit Riccardo Banfi. Courtesy Delfina Foundation and Arts Council England. HR - 16
Exhibition view, "A fire circle for a public hearing", 2019, Vleeshal Center for Contemporary Art, Netherlands, Photo credit : Gunnar Meier.
Exhibition view, «Diable Blanc», 2019, Galerie Sultana, © Aurélien mole.
Exhibition view, "Dans l’éther, là, ou l’eau", 2018, "À Cris Ouverts", 6th édition des Ateliers de Rennes - biennale d’art contemporain, © Aurélien Mole.
Exhibition view, "Letter to a Barn Owl", 2018, Kevin Space, Photo: Maximilian Anelli-Monti.
Exhibition view, "Give Up the Ghost: Baltic Triennial 13, 2018
Exhibition view, "Le centre ne peut tenir", 2018, Lafayette Anticipations – Fondation d’entreprise Galeries Lafayette,
Produced and commissioned by Lafayette Anticipations, Paris. Images: ©Pierre Antoine, ©ADAGP, 2018.
Performance, "The Distance is Nowhere", 2018, Manifesta, Palermo, © Paul Maheke, Sophie Mallett, Stella Sideli, GAM Palermo and Overalls Adv.
Performance, "Familiar familial place of confusion (channel)", 2018, performance in collaboration with Simon and Alix Maheke, Centre Pompidou, Photo © Hervé Veronese.
Exhibition view, "A fire circle for a public hearing", 2018, Chisenhale Gallery, London, UK
Produced by Chisenhale Gallery, London. Commissioned by Chisenhale Gallery and Vleeshal Center for Contemporary Art, Middelburg. Photo: Mark Blower
Exhibition view, «Acqua Alta», 2017, Galerie Sultana, Photo : ©Aurélien Mole
Exhibition view, "The dance floor could never be a story with one voice. The dance floor is packed with stories all pulsating with their own experiences and needs», 2017, DRAF, Photo: Tim Bowditch
Performance, « Mbu », 2017 - as part of BMW Live Exhibition: Ten Days Six Nights, Tate Modern, Photograph © Tate 2017, image: Brotherton-Lock.
Exhibition view, « In the Watery Core of those Stories », 2017, as part of the Diaspora Pavilion, Venice.
Courtesy of ICF, Galerie Sultana and the artist, images: Francesco Allegretto and Paul Maheke
Exhibition view, « What Flows Through and Across », 2017, Assembly Point, London, United Kingdom
Exhibition view, "In Me Everything is Already Flowing", 2016, Center, Berlin, Germany
Exhibition view, "I Lost Track of the Swarm", 2016, South London Gallery, London, Great Britain.
The Mauve Hour, Sultana Summer Set Arles
Art Basel Miami Beach. Miami Beach, USA
Frieze London 2021. London, United Kingdom
Paul Maheke (b.1985, Brive-la-Gaillarde) lives and works in London. In 2011 he completed a MA in Art Practice at l’École Nationale Supérieure d’Arts de Paris-Cergy and in 2015 a programme of study at Open School East, London. Maheke was awarded the South London Gallery Graduate Residency 2015-16. He is awarded for the PACT Zollverein Guest Fellowships 2020 and selected for the Future Generation Art Prize 2021 at Pinchuk Centre, Kiev.
Forthcoming projects include : Sènsa, Fondation Pinault, Paris (2021) ; I Long For An Intent, Goodman Gallery, Cape Town (2021) ; CAC Genève, cur. Pierre Bal Blanc (2021) ; British Art Show 9, curated by Irene Aristizábal and Hammad Nasar (2021).
His recent projects include : Clinique du Queer, Maison Pop, Montreuil (2020); Critstal Clear, Pera Museum, Istanbul (2020) ; YESN’T, Galerie Sultana, Paris (2020) ; The Spectral Forest, Nida Art Colony, Lithuania ; Possédé.e.s, MOCO - Montpellier (2020) ; La Pleine Lune Dort La Nuit, MAC Haute Vienne - Rochecouart (2020) ; Prix Fondation d’Entreprise Ricard, Paris, Performa 19, Abrons Art Center, New York and ‘Elements of Vogue!’, Chopo Museum, Mexico City, ‘OOLOI', Triangle France-Astérides, Marseille, 'The Distance is Nowhere' (in collab. with Sophie Mallett), ICA Miami, Miami (2019), ‘Sènsa', (in collab. with Nkisi), Blockuniverse, London, (2019), Diable Blanc, Galeries Sultana (2019), Meetings on Art, performance art program at 58th Venice Biennale, 'A Fire Circle for a Public Hearing', Vleeshal Center for Contemporary Art, (2019 solo) ‘Letter to a Barn Owl’, Kevin Space, Vienna (2018, solo); ‘A cris ouverts’, Biennale de Rennes (2018). ‘Give Up the Ghost’, Baltic Triennial 13, Tallinn (2018); ‘Le centre ne peut tenir', Lafayette Anticipations, Paris (2018); ‘Move’, Centre Pompidou, Paris (2018); ‘A fire circle for a public hearing’, Chisenhale Gallery, London (2018, solo show); 'Elements of Vogue', CA2M, Madrid (2017); artist-in-residence at Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2017), 'Diaspora Pavilion', 57th Venice Biennale (2017); 'Ten Days Six Nights', cur. Catherine Wood and Andrea Lissoni, Tate Modern, London, UK (2017); 'Acqua Alta', Galerie Sultana, Paris, FR (2017, solo show); 'What Flows Through and Across', Assembly Point, London (2017, solo show); 'In Me Everything is Already Flowing', Center, Berlin (2016, solo show); 'I Would’ve Done Everything for You / Gimme More’, cur. Cédric Fauq, London (2016); 'I Lost Track of the Swarm', South London Gallery (2016); artist-in-residence at Darling Foundry, Montreal, Canada (2015); ‘59th Salon de Montrouge’, Montrouge, France (2014) ».