March 15 through May 18, 2013
Talwar Gallery is delighted to present Panopticon Letters: Missive I, a new film work by Alia Syed. In conjunction with the film, the exhibition will also feature new photographic works. The exhibition will open to the public on March 15 and run through May 18, 2013.
Re-envisioning traditional British landscape painting through the prism of contemporary filmmaking, Alia Syed’s new work Panopticon Letters: Missive I, is an experimental film, shifting narratives from past to present, emerging from a correspondence of letters.
Set against the technical descriptions of architectural plans for an ideal prison, ‘The Panopticon’, by British philosopher and social reformer, Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), the film is composed of sounds and images of sky and water following the course of the Thames in London. Employing a series of methods to play with notions of falsified and disorienting representations, Panopticon Letters utilizes Bentham’s ideas about the gaze as a controlling and benign tool. It further links this central architectural metaphor within the panopticon system to the paring down of the modes of perception in the last century to that of the obsession with sight.
Sky and water are severed from their spatial anchor in the horizon-line that integrates the abstracted qualities of each into a known and humanized realism. Composite views of de-contextualized sky and water, together with ‘tonal’ shifts between digital and 16mm, create a disjointed landscape which becomes progressively dissonant–contesting the philosophy of sight as the primary means of comprehending the world.
Set against textural, rhythmic imagery, the various elements of the film at times work in parallel and opposition to each other in a restructuring of conventional narrative forms, while following the passage of time by the rising and setting of the sun. The uniqueness of Panopticon Letters lies in Syed’s paring down elements of sky and water into minimal gradations of light and colour. The serial architectonics of panopticism is evoked by filmic sleights of hand – working with, parallel to, and at counter purpose to the soundtrack, setting up a framework of counterpoint strategies – between components of the image, between image and sound, and within the construction of the soundtrack itself.
Alia Syed’s work examines memory, representation and colonialism through narratives constructed from both personal and historical realities. As the artist remarks, “Through my dérive along the Thames I encountered further histories. These geographies provoked memories of trauma, creating new narratives that have shaped the film. The voice of Bentham’s benign paternalism is fissured through my own fictionalized narratives.”
Alia Syed was born in Swansea, Wales and lives and works in London, UK. She has been working in experimental filmmaking for over two decades. Syed’s films have been shown at numerous institutions around the world including the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York (2010); Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain (2009); XV Sydney Biennale (2006); Hayward Gallery, London (2005); Tate Britain, London (2003); Glasgow Museum of Modern Art (GOMA), Scotland (2002); The New Art Gallery in Walsall, UK (2002); and Tate Modern, London (2000). Currently her film work Eating Grass is on view in a year long installation at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).
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