Mehdi-Georges Lahlou is the enfant terrible of an art that does not exist. Or not yet, since he is in the process of inventing it. How to be an artist of the interstice today, when navigating between north and south, between cultures, between several media, between multiple intertwined notions? “Do not see the problem through the wrong end of the telescope”, is what he seems to (omit to) tell us.
By way of a reinvented surrealism, Mehdi-Georges Lahlou has chosen to show us, as through a keyhole, what we refuse to see, know, or understand. With the dual identity that follows him like a second skin – given his compound name – Mehdi-Georges guides us in his interior world, sprinkled with his wild kid antics. He raises the burlesque to a high art status, playing with the symbols of the Muslim tradition, opposing them to the one, arrogant and showy, of its red stilettos. More than fetishes, these shoes are a kind of “animal totem” for the artist, both cathartic and vector of representation.
While questioning the field of possibilities forever irreconcilable, he invests his own body as a ground for reflection on the “sexual body” faced with identities, including religious, and likes to divert the signs of traditional culture to engage in a new “Muslim aesthetic”.
His performances, fuelled by his early training as a dancer, leave a bittersweet taste in the mouth, and the knowingly caused laughter can quickly turn sour. His stubbornness to achieve the wildest challenges, with a seriousness bordering on insolence, at the same time tries to downplay the thorniest issues raised by his work and to replace them, incognito, at the forefront: the clichés associated with Muslim women, nudity, sexual gender in spirituality, are as many subjects, both sensitive and essential, so rarely treated with such rigor. Because beyond the inevitable provocation rests, at the core, the strength of commitment.
“Someone told me that the wonder had passed”, he writes, as a disillusioned child, in champagne-colored letters, or on gold paper.
Well, not quite, since Mehdi-Georges is still looking for it.
By Marie Moignard
(A translation by Philippe Dumaine)