In April 1955, representatives of 29 newly, and struggling-to-be, independent countries from Asia and Africa gathered for a conference in Bandung, Indonesia, to champion common interests of national sovereignty, decolonisation, anti-imperialism and economic development. The international meeting of new geopolitical alliances represented 54% of the world population at the time and signalled a pivotal moment for postcolonial political order. From this encounter emerged the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) formed by nations that embraced the above and shunned the polarities of the Cold War – the Third World.
At the centre of the exhibition is Naeem Mohaiemen’s (b. 1969) acclaimed film Two Meetings and a Funeral (2017), which meticulously weaves together both archival footage and new shots with the narration of historian Vijay Prashad (b. 1967), to articulate the momentum and solidarity of the NAM’s leftist ideologies and unravel the complexities behind its unfortunate failure.
Other works in the exhibition look further back from this historic moment to address the imprint of colonial repression and dispossession, as well as the ways in which imperial powers have exerted control through epistemic structures, such as political mapping and language. Through the works of artists from varied geographies and diasporas, the exhibition also points to the challenges of independence and the postcolonial condition. As the first President of Indonesia, Ahmed Sukarno (1901–1970) warned in his opening speech to the attendees of the Bandung Conference: ‘Colonialism has also its modern dress, in the form of economic control, intellectual control…. It is a skilful and determined enemy, and it appears in many guises.’
Artists include: Maria Thereza Alves, Lothar Baumgarten, Black Audio Film Collective, Alán Carrasco, Mariana Castillo Deball, Sandra Gamarra, Jeffrey Gibson, Maryam Jafri, Kapwani Kiwanga, Naeem Mohaiemen, Daniela Ortiz and Xose Quiroga, The Otolith Group, Pala Pothupitiye, Superflex, Munem Wasif and Dana Whabira.