Naeem Mohaiemen

What we found after you left

Spanning two seasons, a rotating program of films and accompanying footnotes explores historical ruptures, documentation and archives.


Naeem Mohaiemen grew up in Tripoli, Libya and Dhaka, Bangladesh and now works in Dhaka and New York. His work, which includes films, installations and books, excavates political ruptures through family stories and macro histories. His focus is the 1970s, when transnational utopian projects began to fall apart as the global surge of socialist revolutions ran into the reality of entrenched capitalism, and the promise of decolonization faced the disappointment of fatally flawed leadership.

This exhibition presents four films in a rotating program from September 2019 to May 2020. Each film is accompanied by works (photographs, prints or sculptures) that serve as ‘footnotes’. These works, in the corridor that leads to the screening room, precede the films, upending the standard rule of footnotes following the main text. The sequence underlines the artist’s manifesto for writing history: moving the margin to the centre.

The program begins with Tripoli Cancelled (2017), the surrealist fable of a man who has lived alone in Athens’s Ellinikon Airport for a decade. The ‘non-place’ of the airport is similarly central to Mohaiemen’s 2011 film United Red Army, which focuses on an airplane hijacking by the militant Japanese Red Army, in support of the Palestinian cause, at Dhaka airport. Next, Two Meetings and a Funeral (2017) probes the ‘pivot’ between the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Finally, Afsan’s Long Day (2014) draws from the diary of Bangladeshi historian Afsan Chowdhury.

While focusing on moments of mistake and misrecognition, Mohaiemen’s research into aspirations towards utopia during the Cold War era – manifested through decolonization, revolution, and independence – is rooted in a hope for a future, revived international left.

Current Chapter

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

The film presented this season is United Red Army (2011), the first in Mohaiemen’s series The Young Man Was, on the revolutionary left and navigations of a flailing and failed masculinity. This film focuses on a 1977 airplane hijacking by the militant socialist Japanese Red Army. By forcing a landing in the recently formed People’s Republic of Bangladesh, the Red Army found themselves negotiating with a turbulent state facing its own schisms: as the hijacker says with benign understatement, ‘I can see you have some... internal... problems.’

As the week-long hijacking unfolds, a skewed perspective on events is heard in the voiceover: an eight-year boy who is puzzled because his favourite TV show, Zoo Gang, has been interrupted by a live broadcast of the hijacking. This historic event as ‘interruption’ plays out via cassette recordings of the negotiation, alongside TV footage, allowing a picture of mistranslation and unintentional pathos – and of a peculiar personal relationship between hijacker and negotiator – to emerge. As the increasingly discombobulated voices says at the end, ‘it is not necessary to understand everything.’ 

Serving as a footnote to the film is Mohaiemen’s work You Will Roam Like a Madwoman (2017). An original copy of the weekly Bangladeshi magazine Bichitra from 1977 is displayed on the west wall of the space, open at an article on the hijacking. In prints around the space, Mohaiemen overlays ‘annotations’ that telescope out selected phrases from the Bengali text on the pages. Underlining the co-existence of the banal with the world-political, and the serious with the playful, the work collapses hierarchies to invite a consideration of the ways that political shifts take place in relation to individual narratives of love, jealousy and possessiveness.

Next Chapters

Two Meetings and a Funeral (2017)
25 January – 15 March 2020

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 (2001–11) and Alal O Dulal (2012–17). He was a Guggenheim Fellow (2014) and was shortlisted for the Turner Prize (2018).

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