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Naeem Mohaiemen

Bangladeshi Contemporary Artist
Born 1969, London
Lives and works in New York and Dhaka, Bangladesh

Naeem Mohaiemen is a contemporary Bangladeshi Artist who divides his time between New York and Dhaka. Although he was born in London, he chose to come back and focus on retelling the story of birth and pain of his country through the turbulent decades of repeated partitions. He has also established himself as an author as well as a filmmaker. In recent times, he has developed a series of short films called “The Young Man Was” depicting the growth of extreme left wing revolutions across the world since the 1970s. Through his mixed media works he has explored issues like military coups, surveillance and the culture of paranoia prevalent in the society. He is currently pursuing Ph.D. in Historical Anthropology at Columbia University.



BA in Economics and Concentration in History, Oberlin College, Ohio

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Engagement in community consciousness and community building

Naeem co-founded Visible Collective in New York for investigating the security panic in the post 9/11 era. Naturally his subsequent projects explore themes like army surveillance, Indian partition, leftist and Islamist politics. He is deeply affected by the blight of average people from not so privileged backgrounds as a result of the changing geopolitical dynamics His background as an anthropology researcher also helps him in adding a different dimension to his analysis. This academic rigour makes his works rise above the usual romanticism and create powerful imagery that leaves a deep imprint on the minds of the viewers.

Visible Collective, “Casual Fresh American Style (w/ No Apologies to Sarah Jessica Parker),” 2004, Queens Museum of Art, New York

Visible Collective, “Patriot Story,” 2006, Whitney Biennial of American Art, New York

Exploring conflicts and history of the Subcontinent

Naeem has authored a book called Prisoners of Shothik Itihash (Prisoners of accurate history) and also runs a series of exhibitions of the same name. Through these works he references to major as well as minor historical events in the South Asian nations of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. He keenly observes the painful partitions that the region has gone through over the years, starting with the one proposed by the British in 1905, the one that actually created India and Pakistan in 1947 and finally the one in 1971 that created Bangladesh. The title of the series is a clever reference to the tailored history designed by the respective establishments of all these countries to fit their respective nationalistic narrative.

As a matter of fact, the nature of recent history and politics in all these countries of Indian subcontinent follow the same trajectory. It is ironic because all these nations emerged from the same composite culture and suffered the same colonial rule. Strong conflicts and enmity exists among them even now and their turbulent history is taught differently in all these countries according to the respective nationalistic narrative. Naeem has understood this perfectly and that is why he took up this project. In a way, it can be called a major triumph of art over politics as it makes scathing comments on the same through simple methods and drives home the point perfectly.

Naeem Mohaiemen, The Young Man Was No Longer, 2011, film still

Filming Revolutions:

Naeem’s best known series of films is known as “The Young Man Was”. These films explore the leftist movements of the 1970s all over the world. It was divided into three parts, namely United Red Army (About Japanese Red Army), Afsan's Long Day (About manhunt of communists and the connection with German and Bangladeshi activism) and Last Man in Dhaka Central . These are not only highly motivated political commentaries but also poignant stories of nostalgia. Youth of the entire world were fascinated by revolutionary ideas in the 60s and 70s. There are no longer young and rarely did the revolutions succeed. In most cases they ended in tragedy but the innocent fervour and infectious glamour of that era still attracts many which is why Mohaiemen has spent a significant amount of his career working on this series. His other important films include Rankin Street, 1953, Der Weisse Engel, and SMS Iran: After Gilles Peress.

Naeem Mohaiemen, The Young Man Was No Longer, 2011, film still

Artist from a torn land

Naeem Mohaiemen had the opportunity to base himself in the west and live a comfortable life. Born in UK, he could never really detach himself from his roots. The strong cultural heritage of Bengal was always in his blood. That is why he now divides his time between New York and Dhaka. He has a keen interest in the formation and evolution of Bangladesh in particular and the turbulent modern history of the Indian subcontinent in particular. Naturally, his interests have also transcended into other struggles across the world and so he has explored various leftist revolutions all over the world through his essays, photographs as well as short films.

Naeem Mohaiemen , Afsan’s Long Day, 2014, film still, 40 mins

He experiments with various visual mediums

Naeem has made films and taken photographs but he does not limit himself to these mediums alone. A lot of his artworks are a result of mixed media. He is also not afraid to experiment with mediums that are new and often not considered to be serious formats by professionals. For instance he created a series called "My Mobile Weighs A Ton" where he uses low resolution mobile photographs, blew up and dyed them to use them as a criticism of an attempted coup in Bangladesh. At the same time, this series also worked as a strong commentary against the strict regime in Bangladesh. As there is a lot of restriction and censorship prevalent in the country, it is very difficult to carry the actual cameras and shoot on most occasions. This is where the Mobile camera comes to the rescue and that is exactly what he depicted through this series of photographs.

Naeem Mohaiemen, My Mobile Weighs a Ton, 2008, mobile phone photography