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Alia Syed

Panopticon Letters Missive I

March 15 - May 18, 2013

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Erith mid-afternoon 11/1/13, 2013  C Print, 20" x 24"

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. 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.

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Minster midday 18 /1 /13, 2013  Print  20" x 24"

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. She attended the University of East London, UK, where she received her BA with Honors in Fine Art in 1987. In 1992 she graduated from the Slade School of Fine Art London, UK where she earned her Post Graduate Higher Diploma in Mixed Media. She 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 Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven, CT; Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Los Angeles, CA; Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain; XV Sydney Biennale; Hayward Gallery, London; Tate Britain, London; Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA), Glasgow, Scotland; The New Art Gallery in Walsall, UK; and Tate Modern, London. Syed was shortlisted for the 2015 Jarman Award for innovation and experimentation in film making in Britain.

Exhibition Views

Exhibition Views Thumbnails

Composite, 2013

C Print

31" x 24"

Composite, 2013

Minster midday 18/1/13, 2013

Print

20" x 24"

Minster midday 18/1/13, 2013

Erith mid-afternoon 11/1/13, 2013 

Print

20″ x 24″

Erith mid-afternoon 11/1/13, 2013 

C Print

20″ x 24″

Minster sunset 16/1/13, 2013

C Print

20" x 24"

Minster sunset 16/1/13, 2013

Panopticon Letters: Missive I, 2010-2013 (Film Still)

16mm film and HD video

24 minutes

Panopticon Letters: Missive I, 2010-2013 (Film Still)

Composite, 2013

C Print

31" x 24"

Composite, 2013

Minster midday 18/1/13, 2013

Print

20" x 24"

Minster midday 18/1/13, 2013

Erith mid-afternoon 11/1/13, 2013 

Print

20″ x 24″

Erith mid-afternoon 11/1/13, 2013 

C Print

20″ x 24″

Minster sunset 16/1/13, 2013

C Print

20" x 24"

Minster sunset 16/1/13, 2013

Panopticon Letters: Missive I, 2010-2013 (Film Still)

16mm film and HD video

24 minutes

Panopticon Letters: Missive I, 2010-2013 (Film Still)

Yale Center for British Art
Yale Center for British Art
Alia Syed in Migrating Worlds: The Art of the Moving Image in Britain October 10 – December 29, 2019

Migrating Worlds brings together work by eight of Britain’s leading film and video artists in the first exhibition at the Yale Center for British Art dedicated exclusively to the moving image.

Artforum
Artforum
Critic's Pick: Alia Syed February 2019

​Sinuating ripples along a shoreline, the sound of waves—one cannot underestimate the calming effect certain kinds of landscape have on the psyche. However, in Alia Syed’s work Meta Incognita: Missive II (2018)—the second in a trio of roman à clef–style films whose themes center around the River Thames in England—all is not what it seems.

4Columns
4Columns
Allan deSouza and Alia Syed March 17, 2017

Immigrant, exile, refugee, traveler, stranger: these are the figures that define our time. They are alternately the fantasy and the nightmare of globalization—neoliberalism dreams of a “flat earth,” a world system where laboring bodies travel across borders as easily as capital, while populism fears those same bodies as dangerous, even deadly, parasitical drains on local economies and civil society. 

Art Asia Pacific
Art Asia Pacific
Eating Grass: Alia Syed July 2013

Set among the pre-modern Indian paintings and Hindu and Buddhist sculptures of LACMA’s South and Southeast Asia wing, Alia Syed’s Eating Grass (2003) is a dreamy filmic experience.