20 January – 17 March 2019
Curator: Roos Gortzak
A fire circle for a public hearing was the first solo exhibition by artist Paul Maheke at a Dutch art institution. Comprising an immersive installation that occupied the entire space, this exhibition developed Maheke’s ongoing engagement with the potential of the body as an archive in order to address how history, memory and identity are formed.
Maheke explores the tension between hypervisibility and erasure. Incorporating installation, video, sound and performance, the exhibition at Vleeshal altered and adapted throughout its duration. Curtains resembling back-stage theatre sets were installed across the gallery and functioned as both props for performances and as a way of delineating space, while floating planets outline a speculative cosmology of interconnected worlds. A sound work, composed in collaboration with artist Sophie Mallett, played on a loop and acted as a companion to a silent video depicting Maheke’s dancing body - present and persistent, but not always fully visible.
Every weekend, performers delivered a series of choreographies throughout the duration of the exhibition. Combining spoken word, movement and dance, the performers embodied different characters, such as the ghost, the drag king and the oracle. The performances repositioned fragments of art history and popular culture, working from pre-existing texts, images, music, performance and film. Felix Gonzalez Torres’ performance, "Untitled" (Go-Go Dancing Platform) (1991), was for example reformatted and repeated, alongside gestures sampled from Michael Jackson’s 1992 Dangerous World Tour rehearsals.
A Fire Circle for a Public Hearing seeked to consider how acts of visibility and invisibility serve to question the presence and absence of marginalised narratives in dominant histories, inviting visitors to assert their own understanding of possible pasts or futures. By speculating on worlds and life elsewhere, Maheke’s exhibition at Vleeshal became a public site to re-articulate and reinvent forms of relationality and representation, as much as a device for developing a new lexicon for thinking about identities outside of identity politics.
Throughout the duration of the exhibition, performances took place on Saturday at 5 pm and on Sunday at noon. Performances lasted for 45 minutes.
A fire circle for a public hearing is commissioned and produced by Vleeshal and Chisenhale Gallery, London. The exhibition at Chisenhale Gallery took place from
13.04. – 10.06.2018.
This project was made possible by the generous support of Mondriaan Fund, the municipality of Middelburg and Institut français des Pays-Bas.