[-empyre-] from Naeem Mohaiemen re home and away

Christina McPhee christina at christinamcphee.net
Fri Jan 11 05:10:03 EST 2008

From: "Naeem Mohaiemen" <naeem.mohaiemen at gmail.com>
Date: January 10, 2008 5:00:49 AM PST
To: empyre at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au
Cc: "Christina McPhee" <christina at christinamcphee.net>
Subject: Re: "home and away"

Hi Christina
Thanks for the very generous introduction.

I think journalism is something I have strayed far away from in recent  
years, as the burden of "fair representation" and "balance" I  
eventually found exhausting. Most of my work plays out within the  
visual arts framework (or at least space).

I'll start by talking about the idea of "home and away" (and get into  
passport gradually).

I usually try to divide my time working between Dhaka and New York,  
and one of the issues I often face is the representation of political  
movements that are located in the "periphery" or southern nations,  
nested inside relations of power with "center" or northern nations.  
Southern activists are locked in a struggle to define their positions  
free of "missionary complex" interventions by locations of power.  
These interventions often take the form of well-meaning, deluded  
forays or as part of a clear agenda of empire.

I think a lot about the position of the cultural producer from the  
periphery who takes on a role of "authentic representative" of non- 
western culture and political movements, such role facilitated by the  
location of one's primary work space and citizenship within a western  
capital city. While the space of art-based political exploration in  
Bangladesh is diverse, it is always the dual nationals (myself  
included) living in, or with privileged access to, cities such as New  
York, who represent entire political movements, or have such  
representation projected on them.

An example can be a project I worked on in 2003-2004: "Muslims or  
Heretics" (later renamed "My Camera Can Lie").  This project, which  
ran from 2003-2006, took the form of a linear documentary on "radical"  
Islamist movements. Though there were many inside Bangladesh who felt,  
and actively debated in public forum and newspapers, that my  
particular representation of Islamist movements were skewed by a  
fetish-fascination, my particular representation received wide  
exposure precisely because of access to European and American cultural  
centers where the film and associated lecture could be viewed  
repeatedly.  By contrast, the alternative views, especially that  
coming from Islamic scholars and those working and researching  
madrasas, were aired in Bengali-- defiantly, and necessarily, located  
in the so-called periphery, frozen out of northern spaces which  
purported to also analyze such movements.

More on this soon, but first hoping for some reactions, provocations,  
etc from other empyreans.

On Jan 10, 2008 2:04 PM, Christina McPhee < christina at christinamcphee.net 
 > wrote:
dear -empyreans-

Please welcome Naeem Mohaiemen, who will join us as soon as he can
from New York  today,  Thursday January 10...it's 3 am in New York
City at the moment so-- meanwhile check out his website: http://shobak.org

Naeem is our first guest, and will be able to join us for all the rest
of this month, except when in planes between New York and Dhaka,
Bangladesh-- his two homes.

Naeem is a generous and gregarious superdynamo (in my humble opinion);
he's working on multiple fronts, as journalist, as visual artist, as
agent provocateur.

Using video, archive and text, Naeem investigates national security
panic, failed revolutionary movements, and the slippage between utopia
and dystopia.
Projects include a multiyear investigation of hysterical conditions
(Visible Collective, disappearedinamerica.org), My Camera Can Lie? (UK
House of Lords), and Sartre Kommt Nacht Stammheim (Pavillion).
[ shobak.org]

When we skyped last month about the possibilities for -empyre-'s
"Stations, Sites"  Naeem explored with me a  few issues that may be
interesting, and I quote him here from our chat:

"1. We were presenting in Vietnam/Singapore last month, and we were
talking about how artists were just descending on to the cities,
taking from the cities, making work "about" the cities (for the
"natives") and leaving again, and the dynamic that creates (in
audience and in us). 2. We were talking about our privilege as artists
who travel etc and I said that the ultimate privilege was not class
privilege but passport privilege... A red or blue passport is worth a
lot and it changes how people make work, and how their work is seen."

Naeem will begin by talking about passport privilege and artist
perceptions between "home" and away.

all best,



More information about the empyre mailing list