A fire circle for a public hearing – chapter 1

A fire circle for a public hearing, 2018-2019
video documentation of one of the daily performances (45 min)
the exhibition was commissioned and produced by Chisenhale Gallery, London (2018) and Vleeshal Center for Contemporary Art, Middelburg (2019).

Comprising an immersive installation occupying the entire space A Fire Circle for a Public Hearing develops Maheke’s ongoing engagement with the potential of the body as an archive in order to address how history, memory and identity are formed.

For the Dutch iteration of the show at Vleeshal, Maheke explores the tension between hypervisibility and erasure. Incorporating installation, video, sound and performance, the exhibition alters and adapts throughout its duration. Curtains resembling back-stage theatre sets are installed across the gallery and function 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, plays on a loop and acts as a companion to a silent video depicting Maheke’s dancing body—present and persistent, but not always fully visible.

Within the exhibition, performers deliver a series of choreographies every weekend. Combining spoken word, movement and dance, the performers embody different characters, such as the ghost, the drag king and the oracle. The performance repositions 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), is reformatted and repeated, alongside gestures sampled from Michael Jackson’s 1992 Dangerous World Tour rehearsals.

A Fire Circle for a Public Hearing seeks 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 becomes 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.

Performers: Sophia van der Putten, Loveday Smith, Charlie Laban-Trier
Music: Sophie Mallett