Meta Incognita: Missive II is the second part of a triptych of films that utilises different histories while focusing upon recognisable locations along and within the River Thames: from Millbank Prison (now the site of Tate Britain) to Second World War architecture on the Essex coastline. Linking places as far flung as the Canadian Northwest Passage and a cellular prison in the Andaman Islands, the three Missives create an extended narrative recited by the female captain of a ship returning to the Thames from the Canadian Arctic. Meta Incognita: Missive II is based on the exploits of the Elizabethan privateer turned explorer Martin Frobisher, who repeatedly sailed to the Canadian Arctic in search of the Northwest Passage. Set in a future where global warming has opened the Northwest Passage to heavy/commercial/trans-continental cargo trade, the narrative follows a renegade ship’s captain who has undertaken a commission to smuggle the last remnants of an unspecified natural resource. The film consists of two shots, sunset and sunrise, filmed off the Essex coast at the mouth of the Thames, on a Public Right of Way called the Broomway, which was until the 1930s the only way onto Foulness Island from the mainland.
Meta Incognita was included in the exhibition Migrating Worlds: The Art of Moving Image in Britain in 2019 at the Yale Center for British Art and is presented for the first time in London, accompanied by two earlier works: On a Wing and a Prayer and Observation Post.
“Born in 1964 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. This retrospective is the first comprehensive survey of her work in the UK. It provides an overview of four decades of moving image practice, from early student films such as Swan (Syed’s degree piece at the University of East London) and Fatima’s Letter (made whilst at the Slade) to the festival premiere of her recent video work Snow (2019). The retrospective is accompanied by an exhibition at Mimosa House of Syed’s Meta Incognita.”