Open City Documentary Festival

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Alia Syed: Imprints, Documents, Fictions – Publication Launch

Since the 1980s, Alia Syed has been making films that draw from personal and historical realities in order to address the subjective relationship to gender, location, diaspora and colonialism. Her work resists the linearity of the film strip and of traditional narrative structures, using layering and repetition – enfolding fact, fiction, present and past. This special event to mark the publication of Alia Syed: Imprints, Documents, Fictions will feature readings and a conversation with Alia Syed and the book’s contributors.  
Published by Courtisane festival in collaboration with Open City Documentary Festival, Alia Syed: Imprints, Documents, Fictions is the first monograph to be devoted to Syed’s work and features new essays by Jemma Desai, Inga Fraser, Peter Gidal, Rahila Haque, Salima Hashmi, Anjana Janardhan, Ruth Noack and Henrietta Williams, as well as writing by Syed herself.

Participant bios:

Jemma Desai is based in London. Her practice engages with film programming through research, writing, performance, as well as informally organised settings for deep study. She is a practice-based PhD student at Central School of Speech and Drama thinking through the liberatory possibilities of abolitionist praxis to cultural production, with a thesis entitled “what do we want from each other after we have told our stories”. 

Inga Fraser is a curator and art historian. She specialises in modern art, intermedia, film, experimental practice, and alternative exhibition spaces. She is currently an associate lecturer at the Courtauld Institute of Art, and a doctoral researcher working in partnership with Tate and the Royal College of Art on a project that explores artists’ engagement with film before 1940.

Rahila Haque is a curator, writer and researcher. She is a PhD candidate at the centre for Transnational Art, Identity and Nation (TrAIN) at Chelsea College of Arts, University of the Arts London.

Anjana Janardhan is a designer and writer based in London. She has written on film and visual culture for publications including BFI, Sight & Sound and Non-Fiction and was selected for New Contemporaries Writing Commissions in 2022. She is currently a member of the programming team at Open City Documentary Festival.

María Palacios Cruz is a film curator, writer and educator. She is currently the director of Open City Documentary Festival in London and was a programmer for the Courtisane Festival from 2008 until 2023. She edited the anthology of writings by British artist Lis Rhodes Telling Invents Told (2019), and co-edited Meditaciones sobre el presente: Ute Aurand, Helga Fanderl, Jeannette Muñoz, Renate Sami (2020, with Garbiñe Ortega) and Living on air: the films and words of Sandra Lahire (2021, with Charlotte Procter). She is the editor of Alia Syed: Imprints, Documents, Fictions(2023).

Born in Swansea, Alia Syed grew up in Glasgow and now lives in London. Her films have been shown at international institutions such as LACMA, the Moscow Biennale, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Hayward Gallery, Tate Modern, Tate Britain, INIVA, WKV Stuttgart and the Yale Centre for British Art. Her work investigates the nature and role of language in intercultural communication, with a focus on borders and boundaries, translation and the trans-cultured self.  Syed’s films draw from personal and historical realities in order to address the subjective relationship to gender, location, diaspora and colonialism.

Henrietta Williams is an artist and urban researcher. Her practice explores urbanist theories; particularly considering ideas around fortress urbanism, security, and surveillance. She is a Lecturer (teaching) at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, and tutors across a number of programs with a particular focus on critical film making methodologies