Paul Maheke’s starting point for Mauve, Jim and John was in hauntology, folklore, and the body of myths and legends of Orford Ness, a windswept strip of land stretching several miles along the Suffolk coast that has been protected by the National Trust as a nature reserve since 1995. The Ness is a decommissioned military testing site known locally as the ‘island of secrets. Maheke was drawn to the story of alleged UFO sightings in Rendlesham Forest during December 1980, which at the time was associated with the over-the-horizon radar station Cobra Mist on Orford Ness.
Experimenting with site-specific choreography, Mauve, Jim and John creates a visual dialogue between alien intrusion from the sky and the military past of the site. The journey of the spacecraft from Rendlesham Forest to the Ness is re-told through the movement of two male bodies, referencing John Burroughs and Jim Penniston; two servicemen who reported their sighting of a mysterious craft in the sky. Maheke worked closely with dancer and choreographer Robert Bridger to develop a new score, where the sightings in Rendlesham and the unsettling landscape of the Ness form a backdrop to the film's queer romance.
Mauve, Jim and John was part of a series of newly commissioned works for Afterness, inspired by Orford Ness.
Image: Still of Paul Maheke’s, Mauve, Jim and John (2021)