Writer and artist Naeem Mohaiemen (born 1969) uses films, installations, and essays to explore the histories of failed utopias within the framework of international left-wing politics. Mohaiemen’s recent three-channel film Two Meetings and a Funeral, which debuted at documenta 14 (Kassel) in 2017, examines two such deeply flawed utopian projects—the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), both of which emerged from the complex political landscape of the Cold War period. The nations and people in the Non-Aligned Movement, including Vietnam, Yugoslavia, Palestine, and Bangladesh, aimed at achieving national sovereignty, decolonization, anti-imperialism, and a new economic world order independent of the United States and the Soviet Union. At the same time, the nations within the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which also included Bangladesh, sided with a transnational nation-state alliance based on unity through Islamic values and supported by new wealth from petroleum exports.
Making its US premiere at the Art Institute of Chicago, Two Meetings and a Funeral considers the historical pivot from the socialist perspective of the 1973 Non-Aligned Movement meeting in Algeria to its ideological counterpoint, the emergence of a transnational Islamic perspective at the 1974 Organization of Islamic Cooperation meeting in Pakistan. The project is centered on Bangladesh’s hesitant, contradictory navigation of these two historic meetings and is set against the backdrop of its struggle for United Nations recognition.
Through archival film material; images of architectural specters in New York, Algiers, and Dhaka; and footage of conversations with key leaders that point to the contradictions within decolonization movements, the film conjures a visually dense memory of these two meetings. Focusing on Global South nations—spanning Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East—and the shift that some of these nations made from a socialist political perspective to one centered on Islamic ideals, the project considers the erosion of a unified Third World as a potential space for decolonization, liberation theology, and socialism.
Image: Installation view courtesy of the artist