Naeem Mohaiemen’s essays, films and installations are works about the unreliability of memory in many registers: individual, familial, collective and official. His practice is framed by his upbringing in Dhaka in the 1970s and 80s, a time of deep political turbulence in Bangladesh (the former East Pakistan) after a violent separation from Pakistan. These two decades saw the nation’s hopes, initially imbued with socialism and secularism, fade in a succession of military coups and dictatorships. Drawing on the film and video archive and its erasures, both as material and metaphor to revisit the impact of ruptures in history on individuals, Mohaiemen interweaves his family histories with the unofficial record of former Left utopias, in the post-war period framed by decolonization and world socialism.
Throughout Mohaiemen’s work, displacement can be seen in its literal form in the treatment of global histories of post-colonial socialism, with references to migration, exile, geopolitics and buried family secrets across several countries and epochs. The works focus on the margins of major historical events, and shift perspectives towards narrating non-Western histories. ON a metaphorical level, it can be seen in Mohaiemen’s attempt to create new meanings from fragmented testimonies, slips in memory and gaps in the archive, opening the way to fictionalization. His ongoing obsession with the previous century’s struggle between capitalism and socialism, between colony and metropole, between West and non-West, always comes back to this question: what would have been our other possible futures, if events had unfolded differently?
–Elsa Coustou, Assistant Curator, Contemporary British Art, Tate