Naeem Mohaiemen 

What we found after you left



Naeem Mohaiemen grew up in Tripoli, Libya and Dhaka, Bangladesh and now lives in New York. His work across films, installations and essays excavates historical ruptures via fiction, documentary and archives. Intertwined family stories and macro histories underpin his projects, which depart from transnational utopian projects that began to fall apart in the 1970s, when the high tide of decolonization ran into the reality of permanently entrenched capitalism.

His exhibition spans two seasons, presenting four films in a rotating program. Each film is accompanied variously by photographs, prints and sculptures that serve as ‘footnotes’ to further expand on their themes. Encountered in the corridor space before the screening room, these footnotes precede the films, arguably the ‘main event’, upending the typical sequence of explanation and underlining the artist’s attention to the seemingly ‘minor’.

The program begins with Tripoli Cancelled, 2017, the artist’s first fiction film, a surrealist fable of a man who has lived alone in Athens’s Ellinikon airport for a decade. Though inventing a narrative inspired by an experience of his father in the 1970s, the work opens out into a consideration of limbo and statelessness with implications that stretch from the experience of the exhausted state of concentration camp prisoners (‘Der Muselmann’ in camp slang) to the tales of longing told to absent romantic partners.

The ‘non-place’ of the airport is similarly central to Mohaiemen’s 2011 film United Red Army, which focuses on the 1977 airplane hijacking by the militant socialist Japanese Red Army at Dhaka airport. Extracting from cassette recordings of the negotiation, alongside TV footage, a picture of mistranslation and unintentional comedy emerges. As the increasingly unmoored negotiator says at the end, ‘it is not necessary to understand everything’. While focusing on moments of misrecognition of allies, Mohaiemen’s overarching investigation into the idea of socialist utopia during the Cold War era is rooted in a hope for a future international left.

Tripoli Cancelled, 2017
21 September – 10 November 2019

United Red Army, The Young Man Was:
Part 1, 2011
13 November 2019 – 5 January 2020

Naeem Mohaiemen’s exhibition continues in January 2020 with Two Meetings and a Funeral, 2017 (25 January – 15 March 2020) and Afsan’s Long Day, The Young Man Was: Part 2, 2014 (18 March – 10 May 2020).

Naeem Mohaiemen (born 1969 in London, UK) lives in New York. His work has recently been exhibited at SALT Beyoglu, Istanbul (2019); Mahmoud Darwish Museum, Ramallah (2018); Vasas Federation of Metalworkers' Union, Budapest (2018); Abdur Razzaq Foundation, Dhaka (2017) and documenta 14, Athens/ Kassel (2017). In Canada, he has previously shown at Hot Docs (2012), A Space Gallery (Images Festival, 2012), Gallery TPW (Images Festival, 2013), and VOX–Centre de l'image contemporaine (2016). Mohaiemen co-edited (with Lorenzo Fusi) System Error: War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (Papesse, 2006) and is currently co-editing (with Eszter Szakacs) Solidarity Must be Defended (Tranzit/ Van Abbe/ Salt/ Tricontinental, 2019). In New York, he was a member of Visible Collective (2002–07), 3rd i South Asian Film (2000–04) and Samar: South Asian Magazine for Action and Reflection (1995–99); in Dhaka, he was a member of Drishtipat (2001-2011) and Alal O Dulal (2012-2017). He was a Guggenheim Fellow (2014) and was shortlisted for the Turner Prize (2018).