Naeem Mohaiemen What we found after you left
September 21, 2019 - May 10, 2020| Free
Spanning two seasons, a rotating program of films and accompanying footnotes explores historical ruptures, documentation and archives.
CURATOR: LAUREN BARNES
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 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
This chapter presents Tripoli Cancelled alongside work by 23 Greek photographers produced in the context of educational workshops run by Mohaiemen and a team at the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens (EMST), FOCUS School of Photography and the Drug Dependence Treatment Unit 18 Ano.
Tripoli Cancelled was shot on location at Ellinikon Airport, Athens’ former international airport which closed in 2001 when a new airport was built for the 2004 Olympic Games. After making the film, Mohaimen ran workshops in which the phptographers, most too young to have ever flown from Ellinikon Airport while it was in operation, visited the airport, many for the first time, and produced their own documents of left-overs, milestones, and glimmers of a future.
Léa Martin Abazoglou, Stella Anastasopoulou, Eirini Angelidi, Eva Besleme, Dimitris Chronopoulos, Filippos Ferentinos, Nora Gkika, Konstantina Flegka, Michalis Georgiou, Christos Kanakis, Anna Kantrivioti, Kostas Klinakis, Vaggelis Kokoroskos, Viktoria Kounaki, Panos Mazarakis, Eleftheria Motaki, Nantia Panagopoulou, Ioanna Paraskelidi, Penny Theodosiou, Giorgos Sotiriou, Rita Chela, Panagiotis Vorgias and Christina Zagoreou.
United Red Army, The Young Man Was: Part 1 (2011)
13 November 2019 – 5 January 2020
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).
Image: Naeem Mohaiemen, What we found after you left, 2019. Installation view: The Power Plant, Toronto, 2019. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.