Alia Syed filmed a twirling Kathak dancer, the camera fixed above her head, and then buried the 16mm film in her garden, wrapping it with leaves, earth and organic waste. She then exhumed the film and an extended clip from it, titled Priya (2008). This clip along with others are being shown at Elision, a debut solo exhibition by this London-based artist at Talwar Gallery, Neeti Bagh, New Delhi, India. Also on display are stills from a film, along with two other film-works—Swan (1989), a film shot in extreme close-up of a swan as it grooms itself and readies for flight with characteristic grace, and A Story Told, a film shot in triptych that features the artist talking about a relationship.
A still from the film Priya
In an email interview, Alia Syed responds to questions on her art and her show. Edited excerpts:
Would you call your experimental films unconventional? Are there many others engaged in creating such experimental works?
There is a community of people who consciously call themselves experimental film-makers, so within the term used, hopefully my work is unique to me.
Are you consciously pushing the boundaries of what can be called art? Or does the unconventionality or the novelty of method and medium simply result from a desire to realize you artistic vision?
I think how anyone approaches a medium is what makes it unique but I am not consciously pushing the boundaries of art. It is just a desire to realize my artistic vision.
Are you conscious of distinct Eastern and Western sources of inspiration when you create a work of art?
I think the West and East have been in dialogue for a very long time so there are many things that we consider as belonging to one and not the other and often it is not necessarily true. But there are distinct cultural and also maybe formal approaches, especially if one thinks about the distinctions between Indian and Western classical music, for example.
A still from the film Swan
How have your films been received in India? What were your expectations?
It seems my films have been received well. I think people have been very sensitive to the work.
The socio-economic reality in India differs a lot from that in the UK. Do you feel that this difference is relevant to art? Wouldn’t it be natural to expect artists and art lovers in the two countries to have different concerns and tastes?
Overall yes, there is a distinction in the socio-economic reality but to imply because of this there is a lack of knowledge or interrogation into how we operate within the world would not be true. There may be a difference in concern and taste but there is also a large group of people who travel between the two places on a regular basis—but also I think it is a bit early for me to comment properly on this.
Elision will be showing till 4 February, 2009 at the Talwar Gallery, C-84 Neeti Bagh, New Delhi