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In Focus: Alia Syed 2

Points of Departure
Alia Syed | 2014 | UK | 16’ | digital

“The objects and places we cannot leave behind create the tapestry that is Points of Departure. Exploring themes of personal and collective memory through my relationship to the city of Glasgow, a voice over describes a tablecloth I retrieved whilst clearing my elderly father’s house. The film attempts to unravel the threads of memory held within this mundane item and to find an image within the BBC archive that relates to my memories of growing up in Glasgow.” (Alia Syed)

Alia Syed | 2019 | UK | 42’ | digital

“This tape is made from Hi8 video that my father shot.” Through visual analysis and hypnotic repetition, Syed reappropriates footage shot by her father on a snowy day in the winter of 1995/96, at a time when the filmmaker and her father were not speaking to one another. Snow blends different temporalities – of the original footage, of the filmmaker’s first watching in 2017 and her subsequent viewings in 2019 – time and repetition shifting the filmmaker’s assumptions about the images and her late father, who is both present and absent.

Alia Syed | 2012 | UK | 12’ | 16mm

Priya is an extended aerial shot of a twirling Kathak dancer. The 16mm footage was buried in various organic materials, deteriorating the initial image to shift cultural specificity and linear narratives of time and space. Rituals of burial expound successive memories of entombment; the skin of the film becomes the body of the dancer, fracturing time into a darkly evocative, psychological space.

Followed by a conversation between Alia Syed and Shama Khanna


Shama Khanna is an independent curator, writer and educator from London. They are the founder of Flatness (http://flatness.eu), a long-running platform for artists’ moving image and network culture invested in curating through a decolonial feminist lens. The project has been described as a ‘digital site of resistance’ (Dr Sylvia Theuri), decentring narratives of the arts and normalcy from the margins of the online. As well as with the artists featured on the site, Khanna has collaborated with numerous publications and organisations including: documenta 14, Athens; NANG, Seoul; Western Front, Vancouver; Microscope, NYC; Art Monthly; Afterall; LUX Scotland; Jerwood Arts; Herbert Gallery; Camden Arts Centre; The Women’s Art Library, Goldsmiths; Feminist Review Journal; Chisenhale Gallery; Syllabus; and CCA, Glasgow (all UK). They are currently producing a Flatness book commissioned by Axisweb & Manchester Metropolitan University in partnership with not/ nowhere. Khanna is a lecturer in Curating at the Royal College of Art, a Cultural Tenant at Studio Voltaire Studios, and a proud Trustee of not/nowhere artist workers’ co-operative.


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.