Installation view, Helicotrema Festival, Venice.
Voglio andare alla Biennale (I want to go to the Biennial)
Naeem Mohaiemen | Paris Furst Sound installation | 2015
feeling of a sound and the curve of waveforms. Hamburg-based musicians Rachel Aumiller, James McIver, and Stefhan Link recorded a slowed-down version of Ralph Chaplin’s union song “Solidarity Forever” for the mix, a tribute to activist-academic Peter Custers who passed away last month.
At Helicotrema, this sound project will be installed at “Polveriera Francese,” a 19th century powder magazine built by the French army. Among all visitors to this space, perhaps only the Venetian Bangladeshis will understand everything that is said in this room. For other visitors, there will be fragments of Italian, stray English words (“Europe e tokhon crazy namlo”) buried in the Bengali, and snatches of laughter.
Narshingdi is the most supple character within this mosaic – he is here in two languages, as a polyglot messenger signaling abrave new world. Aldous Huxley’s dystopic vision of a reengineered new man is made flesh in a radically different way in our time: a time when capital moves everywhere, bodies are turned away at borders, and language becomes a weapon for survival.
In a final conversation, Narshingdi said he was not sure how much longer he would stay in Venice. He said Italy “is finished” for him, and for Italians as well. He worked here for thirteen years, and had not returned to Bangladesh in six years (Narshingdi has a child he has never seen).
Recently he had been feeling exhausted, and went to a doctor for a checkup. The doctor’s diagnosis: “Tu non stai male - sei stanco, sei triste, devi tornare a casa, devi tornare al tuo paese.” (“You’re tired, you’re sad. You need to go home. You need to go back to your country.”)
For the last two weeks, Narshingdi’s phone has been switched off (“il cliente da lei chiamato non è al momento raggiungibile.”). An invitation to attend the Helicotrema opening went into the ether.
But he will reappear, in Europe’s future and in ours.