His debut solo show in Berlin, ‘In Me Everything is Already Flowing’ is the first of a series of performances by French-born, London-based artist Paul Maheke. The title of the exhibition originates from a quote by the philosopher Luce Irigaray, as presented in Astrida Neimanis‘ book, ‘Hydrofeminism: On, or becoming a body of water’. The theory of ‘Hydrofeminism’ focuses on the relationship between humanity and water, to suggest commonality in its origin.
Through installations and audio-visual displays, Maheke boldly explores humanity’s biological roots in water and, consequently, its power, fluidity and vulnerability. The exhibition, hosted and curated by the non-profit organisation Room E-10 27, invites the audience into an intimate space of white walls, yellow floors, hanging fabrics, mounted mirrors and frames, with projected pictures and videos. Across the fabrics and floor, a series of slogans and cutouts reveal small stanzas of text often dealing with the themes of identity, consumerism and, of course, water.
The framed pictures and videos capture a sensibility regarding the art of movement, be it mid-spin, a jump or stretch. In this setting, Maheke uses his background in dance and choreography to link the physical history of the human body to the dynamic properties of water. Accompanied by a text from Tom Hastings, the colourful, audio-visual nature of the exhibition emulates the universal nature of water through rhythm in ebbs and flows, while also demonstrating the dark and underestimated nature of resistance and encapsulation.
By looking into the extended history of water both as a substance and subject, the link between water and expressive movement is made apparent in Maheke’s decision to flood the space with sensory tools. Expanding on the work of Irigaray and Neimanis, Maheke draws further influence from a study conducted by Masaru Emoto and Luc Montagnier, highlighting water’s molecular correlation to emotion. Each display is looking to illicit an emotional response. As the motif of physical expression is maintained throughout the exhibition, Maheke is in effect looking at the history of trauma and its ability to be transported through generations.
Inherited trauma also plays a central role in the exhibition. Water’s ability to carry with it years of history is parallel to Maheke’s understanding of literature and dance; both of which document a specific history or place in time. It is perhaps this specificity that Maheke touches upon dearly, addressing themes of personal alienation. By curating a series of moving images to perform as stand-alone pieces to a mixed group of spectators, he looks deeper into common history and quietly argues that personal experiences and histories, such as the queer black experience, cannot be shared: at best they can be discussed, displayed and performed. In that sense, Maheke treats and would like us to view water and the human body as archives, storing personal nuances that are best shared and expressed in accessible forms such as music, text and dance.
Through bold lettering and fearless movement, Maheke asks that we see ourselves as vessels through which our histories, incompatibilities and similarities work. We are not be defined by our past or our experiences, so we store them internally and, like water, continue to flow.