Naeem Mohaiemen

Tripoli Cancelled

Tripoli cancelled
Film | 93 minutes | 2017
A man follows a daily routine of walking, smoking, writing letters, staging scenes, and reading from a weathered copy of Watership Down. The line between prisoner and king is blurred in a merging of our epoch of desperate migration with the post-Holocaust concept of “spectral human” (Hannah Arendt) and “Der Muselmänner” (Giorgio Agamben). The film is staged in the Ellinikon terminal designed by Eero Saarinen in 1969, closed in 2001 when the new Eleftherios Venizelos airport opened for the 2004 Olympic Games. The film features two nominees for Greek Academy Awards: actor Vassilis Koukalani (for AMERIKA SQUARE, 2016) and sound designer Kostas Fylaktides (for SUNTAN, 2016).

Premiering at documenta 14 in Athens, the film was installed at Museum of Modern Art (PS1), New York, in the solo show There is No Last Man.


New York Times:  (2018) “Franz Kafka and Samuel Beckett mixed with Julio Cortázar, threaded through the needle of colonialism and 21st-century security states.”

Brooklyn Rail: “While this is not the forum to continue/reopen the many debates engendered by the two-city Documenta, it is clearly part of the final conceit of Mohaiemen’s project, since the film is set in the ruin of the two airline terminals—the domestic one formerly a site for squatting, while the international Saarinen section is maintained by a foundation—and screened as part of the dual-site German mega-exhibition.”

Kathimerini (Greek): ““When a man loses his tongue?” The hero wondered. What is fighting, damage or death? Where this is reproduced daily in a place without life, without using? Suffice a man, like telling the director. For where there is even a man there is a story to tell.”

Bomb: “Mohaiemen has long exposed the surprises to be found within the historical archive, but with Tripoli Cancelled he has opened himself to the surprises discovered within the creative process itself, marking a new point of departure for his work.”

E-flux: “Also, I can’t help but think of Paul Ricœur with this film. He has a lecture called “Who is the Subject of Rights?” in which he writes of the four basic factors for the human agent to designate herself as a self-respecting and self-esteeming individual, thus as what he calls a capable subject. These four things are her capacities for designating herself as a speaking subject; being the author of her actions; being able to be the author of a narrative, a history (for instance uninterrupted by a forced migration); and finally, we esteem and respect ourselves when we can own our words, our actions, be the narrators of the stories that we tell about ourselves and evaluate them as either good or obligatory (to someone, to a group)—our ethical capacity."

Four Columns: “He sings a song near the end of the film in which he says that on Sundays he only wants to rest, as the Judeo-Christian God is described as doing in the Old Testament at the end of creation. This might lead viewers to think that his entire situation, which is his entire world, is his own omnipotent fabrication.”

The Wire: “This brings me back to time. In this 95 minute saga, time becomes space – a site for reflection – for thoughts to permeate the haunting silences of when Mohaiemen’s actor is talking in wet-walled stares.”

Frieze: “With nothing but haze visible beyond the airport’s borders, the protagonist exists in a dream state on the border between reality and insanity.”

Key Exhibitions
Athens, Greece: Documenta 14, EMST National Museum, 2017.
London, UK: BFI London Film Festival, festival world premiere, 2017.
Beirut, Lebanon: “Tamawuj,” Sharjah Biennial 13 (off-site), 2017.
New York, USA: “There Is No Last Man,” MoMA PS1, curated by Peter Eleey, 2018.
Kolkata, India: “I wish to let you fall out of my hands,” w/ Bani Abidi, Experimenter, 2018.