Born and raised in France, Paul Maheke is a London-based contemporary artist with a wide-ranging practice. Fast emerging on the international art scene, Maheke is becoming known for his collaborative, dance-oriented performative works and video installations that delve into identity politics (racial and sexual), alternative beliefs, and structural power.Read More
Paul Maheke was born to Congolese parents in Brive-la-Gaillarde. He studied at the École Nationale Supérieure d'Arts de Paris-Cergy, completing his master's in 2011. In 2015 he also completed a programme of study at Open School East in London. His performative career began with subtle anonymous public interventions, including leaving small monochromes in parking spots, altering a mirror in a men's public toilet, and installing reflective shapes outdoors to catch the sun.
Upon moving to London, deeper social concerns entrenched themselves in Paul Maheke's artwork: queer anxiety, post-colonial structures of power and representation, strategies of resistance, and the complex cultural identities of diaspora communities. For his early video installation Mutual Survival, Lorde's Manifesto (2015), the artist filmed women of the Tropical Isles Carnival Dance Troupe rehearsing in Hackney, presenting dance as a mode of communal self-defense.
Dance has become a principal medium of the artist's work, whether performed or only choreographed by him. His performative oeuvre explores the function of the body as an archive of memory and identity, and as a space of resilience. Through movement and dance, culture is conveyed or challenged. Maheke often accompanies the movement of the body with word fragments of post-colonial and feminist theory, projected, printed, and spoken.
Collaboration is also a frequent feature of Paul Maheke's performances. In 2019 Maheke collaborated with Belgian-Congolese DJ and sound artist Nkisi on Sènsa: a commissioned performance for the Performa 19 Biennial that drew upon African Bantu-Kongo cosmologies. Together the two artists of Congolese heritage examined tropes of black identity and post-colonial power dynamics.
Active on the international art scene, Paul Maheke has already been featured in major art events, including the Performa 19 Biennial, New York; the 58th Venice Biennale; and Manifesta 12, Palermo. His work also features in public collections such as the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool; the Arts Council Collection, England; and Neues Museum Nürnberg, Germany.
Levant, Ludlow 38, New York (2019); A fire circle for a public hearing, Vleeshal Middelburg, Netherlands (2019); What Flows Through and Across, Assembly Point, London (2017); I Lost Track of the Swarm, South London Gallery (2016).
La pleine lune dort la nuit, Musée d'art contemporain de la Haute-Vienne, Rochechouart, France (2020); Transcorporealities, Museum Ludwig, Cologne (2019); Get Up, Stand Up, Somerset House, London (2019); Coming Out, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool (2017); Elements of Vogue, Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo, Madrid (2017); VIVA! art action, Centre CLARK, Montreal (2013); Papier Français, The Poetry Art Club, New York (2012).
Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2020