Alia Syed

Imagine your own history

11 february, 2009 - 11 april, 2009 /
Sabatini Building, Espacio Uno
Alia Syed. Swan, 1989. 16mm transferred to DVD, silent. Image: Courtesy of the artist and Talwar Gallery. New York / New Delhi
Alia Syed. Swan, 1989. 16mm transferred to DVD, silent. Image: Courtesy of the artist and Talwar Gallery. New York / New Delhi

The work of the English artist of Indian descent Alia Syed (Swansea, United Kingdom) is on display for the first time in Spain at this exhibition. Her work Eating Grass (2003), is a succession of sequences in public and private spaces of three cities (London, Karachi and Lahore), assembled as a collage. The parts that standout in the 22 minutes that the film lasts are the super-saturated colours, the total freedom of movement and sibilant voices reciting lines written in English and Urdu, the national language of Pakistan. It is about allusions to the five daily prayers prescribed by Islam. Syed reflects in this work the influence of collagists and other experimental filmmakers of the 1960s.

Poetics and Politics, Eating Grass includes an explicit reference to a promise made in 1974 by the then President of Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who stated that his country would have nuclear weapons as they did in India even if Pakistan’s people had to eat grass to finance them. In a conscious effort to avoid sinking under the weight of some images with an excessive violent load, the political connection of the film is not obvious. The work, an excerpt from a collection of images of people and places, only reveals its political reference in the title.

The collection includes an earlier work, Swan, 1989, a 16mm film that is 4 minutes long, which refers to avant-garde filmmakers and their interest in representing nature or, more importantly, by using it as a visual metaphor for the expression of human subjectivity. The sumptuous images of a white swan preparing for flight have a very careful composition, as if they were photographs. The movement of the swan, which extends its wings and flaps them over and over again, allows the spectator to contemplate the incongruity of the moment. Although the film seems to represent the swan while it unfolds its wings before flight, it doesn’t actually represent a narration, but creates a new story based on emptiness, which invites the spectator to reflect and imagine their own story.

Exhibition´s details

Organized by: 
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
Berta Sichel
Alia Syed