Naeem Mohaiemen: Monday, Day 3753
Naeem Mohaiemen combines films, installations, and essays, to explore histories of rhizomatic families, malleable borders, and socialist utopias.
Mohaiemen’s moCa exhibition is built around his first fiction film Tripoli Cancelled (2017), created after a decade of documentaries on left histories. The script follows the daily rituals of a man stranded in an abandoned and dilipidated airport. The film begins on “Monday, Day 3753,” hinting that the nameless protagonist has been trapped, or exiled, within the airport for over ten years. We watch him pass the time by walking the empty halls, dancing to Boney M’s 1978 version of “Rivers of Babylon,” writing letters to his wife, and reading out loud from Richard Adam’s 1972 children’s fable of rabbits, and their Gods, Watership Down. The 93-minute film unfolds with aching slowness, capturing the physical and emotional experience of a solitary man—a protagonist who exists in perpetual limbo.
Tripoli Cancelled was filmed in Ellinikon Airport in Athens, Greece, loosely inspired by Mohaiemen’s father, who was stranded in this same airport for nine days in 1977 after losing his passport. The film transforms and expands a personal story into a larger investigation of exile, and the corrosive loneliness of lives under shattered modernity. Is the abandoned airport the result of disaster, or a space that the protagonist has fabricated in his own mind? Is this a place from our past, or are we encountering a glimpse of J. G. Ballard's drowned world? What is real and what is imagined? Tripoli Cancelled asks nothing of the audience; but the patient viewer may piece together fragments, investigate counter narratives, and consider the uncertainty of what awaits our coming futures.