Interview with Paul Maheke

Something Human: In your practice you discuss thinking about the body as an archive that needs to be reinvented, as a ‘territory’ with its own ‘cartography’, and an ‘utopia’ to be reinvented through strategies of resistance. How has the cartography of Venice influenced your work?

Paul Maheke: The cartography of Venice didn’t influence the work per se — in the sense that I haven’t worked from the Venetian context but rather with it. The research grounds itself in a speculative situation that investigates the ability of our bodies to stock information through various ways and to embody stories. I am mainly interested in seeing where this intersect with a broader socio-political context. In Venice I looked at the way in which water choreographs the life of the city; the island is porous and has gills, it breathes with water and it’s always in flux. I see many connections between this and my understanding of identity.

Something Human: Your work currently installed in the Diaspora Pavilion addresses History through non-human subjectivity. In what ways do non-human subjectivities shed light on human subjectivities within the context of the international Diaspora?

Paul Maheke: The work that I’m presenting at the Diaspora Pavilion stems from the desire to define new ways to address Blackness/Browness outside of identity politics. I treated the diaspora more as a means of understanding than a subject in and of itself. While I was dwelling on research into the memory of water and its responsiveness to emotions or at the classification of non-indigenous species of plants and their migration, I was looking to break the Western binaries that oppose culture to nature.

Something Human: Inspired by Astrida Neimanis’ Hydrofeminism, your performance in Venice, Mbu et les Autres, refers to fluids as substances whose subjectivity uses our bodies as vehicles. As your performances often reference dance moves, how do these movements express or affect this subjectivity?

Paul Maheke: The movements are not trying to be anything else but what they are. In Mbu et les Autres I’ve tried to make a dance that would also be a research moment based on physical memory. I often refuse literality in my work and I tend to think of those movements as extensions or parts of my thinking process. Nevertheless, if I don’t see them as a form of expression they definitely operate as a way to affect their subject, to inform and complicate it.

In my work, There are always multiple parallel lines that intersect at various points but also branch off and deviate. It’s a strategy for me to disrupt my own expectations about what the work should be. Often I feel like the work resists in the making, as most of my performances are improvisation-based, that’s one of the means I’ve used to expose and metabolise these tensions.

Mbu et les Autres gives way to a speculation about (and from) the standpoint of the waters of my body. The work aims to retell this relationship through movement, texts and sound.

More info about Paul Maheke here

More info on MAP1: Waterways performance programme here

Featured image credits: I Lost Track of the Swarm, Paul Maheke. Image by Ollie Hammick