Éric Baudelaire + Naeem Mohaiemen

Funded by Arts Council Tokyo
With support from Institut français du Japon - Tokyo 9 February - 8 March, 2020 12:00-19:00 *Open Fri. Sat. Sun.

12:00-19:00, 09 FEB - 08 MAR 2020

Opening Reception: 5:30-7pm, Sunday 9 February
*Both artists will be present at the venue.

Asakusa is delighted to announce the opening of "Yabuno-naka nihon sekigun", the two-person exhibition by artists Eric Baudelaire and Naeem Mohaiemen, who share common interests in the concept of statelessness, the history of political utopia and its repercussions, as well as summoning images from past events, transcending the border of documentary footage and affective memory. Through different paths, each artist has come to focus on the impact of the Japanese revolutionary left during the 1970s. The exhibition references the film Rashōmon [1], and comprises two bodies of work that narrate and analyse this history at the convergence of distant political temporalities between Beirut, Tokyo and Dhaka—drawing upon multiple perspectives and testimonies without a unified truth.

In the early 1970s, extreme left members of the Red Army faction began to flee Japan, seeking to set up bases overseas, an action which they imagined to be a key geopolitical strategy for a “World Revolution”. Among them, Japanese Red Army (JRA; 1971-2001) led by Fusako Shigenobu formed a base in Beirut, with support from The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). In their fierce and persistent attempt to paralyze state power and to rescue imprisoned comrades, JRA carried out a relentless series of armed operations, including hijacking civil aircrafts and attacking airports and embassies—continually acting in stealth and social clandestinity. Meanwhile, their solitary, nomadic, lifelong crusade meant life under imminent threat, and constant displacement and replacement of spatio-temporal political context, bearing the risk of their intentions falling into misappropriation and misreading.

The Anabasis of May and Fusako Shigenobu, Masao Adachi, and 27 Years without Images (2011) by Eric Baudelaire (b.1973) is an intricate tale of JRA members—Fusako Shigenobu, the group's leader, and her daughter May, as well as Masao Adachi, a filmmaker and an ex-member of JRA. Produced in the manner of Adachi's fūkeiron (landscape theory), the film continues with a series of landscapes that reveal the ubiquitous structures of power in society. The camera carefully pans along urban and suburban views as the monolog voice-over accounts for their exile in Beirut, until forced return to Tokyo. A recurring theme during these years of self-invention is the question of images: public media images produced in response to terrorist operations planned for the television era, and personal images that are lost or destroyed amid the chaos of struggles. Referencing Xenophon’s famous tale of the Greek army’s journey home [2], and with insertion of TV footage and Adachi's film excerpts, the film collects words, testimonies and memories (including false memories) as two intersecting accounts mix personal stories, political history, revolutionary propaganda and film theory.

For Naeem Mohaiemen (b.1969), the 1970s were a formative period of the artist’s life, as well as his home country of Bangladesh. As an eight-year-old child, the artist watched his home television screen waiting for a favourite TV show to begin, yet instead found a static image of a control tower for hours on end. Based on JRA's 1977 hijacking of Japan Airlines Flight 472 [3], Mohaiemen’s film United Red Army (2011) combines the original voice recordings of the hostage negotiations, with colored text on a black screen. The work, in the negation of imagery, underscores the event’s political and interpersonal tensions with implicit meditation of its complex reverberations behind the veil of state television. JRA had aligned with the Palestinian cause, and through the allegience, to an idea of global pan-Arabism. But the Bangladesh in which the aircraft landed in 1977 was not what they imagined. Instead of being the willing stage for ideas of “Third World Revolution,” the actual Third World hit back unexpectedly, forming a coup d'etat which turned the hijacker into a helpless witness—saying in strained English; "I understand you have some internal problems."

The demise of international class solidarity strikes a possible chord of resonance in a dissonant community of social heterogeneities. Perhaps, only by risking being a threat to a dominating and homogenizing political discourse, can an ordered society think anew and imagine an armature of counter-thought to resist dominant positioning. How can this intelligence be challenged from the very basis that defines our reality? Is this mode of questioning still able to hold space within social and artistic discourses without risking justification? Or will this shift have to burrow space, to move only in a subterranean fashion, by creating alternative spaces? Should the reading of JRA be rejected due to its criminal implications? All these would be questions of unhindered creativity and idealistic will, as well as a question around the possibility of arts by risking itself, as critical resistance to any monolithic and totalising interpretation of the world.

"Yabuno-naka nihon sekigun" is realized with the support of Arts Council Tokyo, the Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture.

[1] Yabu-no naka (藪の中, In a Grove) is a 1922 short story by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa. Akira Kurosawa used this story as the basis for the plot of his award-winning movie Rashōmon. The story is a blending of the modernist search for identity and presents multiple accounts of a murder case. Each section simultaneously clarifies and obfuscates what the reader knows about the murder, eventually creating a complex and contradictory vision of events that brings into question humanity's ability or willingness to perceive and transmit objective truth.
[2] Anabasis: a book by the Athenian soldier, historian and philosopher Xenophon. It describes the events of 401 BCE—from the genesis of Cyrus’ revolt, the march deep into the Persian empire, and the subsequent victorious battle of Cunaxa at which Cyrus died, to the difficult journey home of the ten thousand Greek hoplite mercenaries as they fought their way north to the Black Sea and freedom.
[3] Japan Airlines Flight 472 was an aircraft hijacking carried out by the Japanese Red Army (JRA) on 28 September 1977, where the Japanese government accepted the hijackers' demands of US$6 million and the release of imprisoned JRA members in return for the hostage passengers.
Eric Baudelaire (b.1973) is an artist and filmmaker based in Paris, France. After training as a political scientist, Baudelaire established himself as a visual artist with a research-based practice incorporating photography, printmaking and video. Since 2010, filmmaking has become central to his work. His feature films Un Film Dramatique (2019), Also Known As Jihadi (2017), Letters to Max (2014), The Ugly One (2013) and The Anabasis of May and Fusako Shigenobu, Masao Adachi and 27 Years Without Images (2011) have circulated widely in film festivals (including Locarno, Toronto, New York, FID Marseille and Rotterdam). When shown within exhibitions, Baudelaire’s films are part of broad installations that include works on paper, performance, publications and public programs, in projects such as "APRÈS" at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and "The Secession Sessions," which traveled to the Berkeley Art Museum, Bétonsalon in Paris, Bergen Kunsthall and Sharjah Biennial 12. Baudelaire has had monographic exhibitions at Witte de With (Rotterdam), Fridericianum (Kassel), Beirut Art Center, Gasworks (London), and Hammer Museum (Los Angeles), and has participated in Whitney Biennale (2017), Yokohama Triennale (2014), Mediacity Seoul (2014), and Taipei Biennial (2012). His work is in the collections of the Reina Sofia Museum (Madrid), MACBA (Barcelona), MoMA (New York), the Centre Pompidou (Paris) and M+ (Hong Kong). In 2019 Baudelaire was the recipient of a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, and the Prix Marcel Duchamp.

Naeem Mohaiemen (b.1969) works in Dhaka and New York. He combines essays, films, drawings, and installations to research socialist utopias, incomplete decolonizations, language wars, and shifting borders. Starting from the nexus of Bangladesh history after the two ruptures of 1947 (partition of British India) and 1971 (separation of Bangladesh from Pakistan), his films ripple outward to take in manpower export that became conscripts to the PLO, an airport as staging ground for many mutinies, missed encounters of two generations of European left, and a graduate student searching for the revolutionary spirit in Asia. The work has taken on the state-sanctioned urge to enforce “correct history”, the problem of decolonial moments that replicate old oppressions in new forms, the obscuring of class as a mode of thinking through the idea of forward, and the hegemonic position of English language. Naeem is author of Prisoners of Shothik Itihash (Kunsthalle Basel, 2014), co-editor (w/ Lorenzo Fusi) of System Error: War is a Force that Gives us Meaning (Sylvana, 2007), editor of Between Ashes and Hope: Chittagong Hill Tracts in the Blind Spot of Bangladesh Nationalism (Drishtipat, 2010), and co-editor (w/ Eszter Szakacs) of Solidarity Must be Defended (Tranzit/ Van Abbe/ Salt/ Tricontinental, 2020). Naeem was a 2014 Guggenheim Fellow (film- video) and a 2018 finalist for the Turner Prize. He recently exhibited work at Qattan Foundation (Ramallah), Bengal Foundation (Dhaka), Cinema Empire (Dakar), Tate Britain (London), MoMA PS1 (New York), documenta 14 (Athens/Kassel), and the Venice, Lahore, and Eva (Ireland) Biennial.


Éric Baudelaire + Naeem Mohaiemen
"Yabuno-naka nihon sekigun"
9 February - 8 March 2019
12:00-19:00 *Open Fri. Sat. Sun.
ASAKUSA | 1-6-16 Nishi-Asakusa, Taito, Tokyo

In cooperation with
Masao Adachi (filmmaker)
Yoshiko Shimada (artist)

Special Thanks: The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto (MoMAK)

Opening Reception
5.30-7pm, 9 February 2019
ASAKUSA | 1-6-16, Nishi-Asakusa, Taito, Tokyo 111-0035

Public Events
Screening and Talk《AKA Jihadi》
Eric Baudelaire in conversation with Masao Adachi

February 7, 2020, 6:30 PM - 9 PM
@ Espace Image, Institut Francais
Regular admission JPY 1000.-
Admission free for students and members of Institut Francais
No ticket sales on site.
Tickets are available through Peatix only ->

Screening and Talk《Un Film Dramatique》
Moderator: Mami Kataoka

February 10th, 2020, 7 PM - 9 PM
@ Auditorium, Mori Art Museum
Admission free (exhibition ticket required to enter the venue.)
Capacity of 80 seats. Booking essential.

Supported by
Arts Council Tokyo, the Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture. (Project Title: The Exhibition of Éric Baudelaire + Naeem Mohaiemen)
arts council tokyo With support from Institut français du Japon - Tokyo
藪の中 日本赤軍後援団体 1

Eric Baudelaire
Naeem Mohaiemen

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