Screening: Panopticon Letters: Missive 1, 2013

Panopticon Letters: Missive 1, Alia Syed, video installation, 2013
Panopticon Letters: Missive 1, Alia Syed, video installation, 2013

The second in the Ghosts series of single works is Alia Syed’s film Panoptican Letters: Missive 1, which combines her interest in storytelling with a compelling presentation of history as a visual narrative. (10-14 Nov 2014)

Screened in the Triangle Space at Chelsea College of Arts.

Set against the technical descriptions of architectural plans for an ideal prison, ‘The Panopticon’, by British philosopher and social reformer, Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), the film is composed of sounds and images of sky and water following the course of the Thames in London.

Employing a series of methods to play with notions of falsified and disorienting representations, Panopticon Letters utilizes Bentham’s ideas about the gaze as a controlling yet benign tool. It further links this central architectural metaphor within the panopticon system to the paring down of the modes of perception in the last century to that of the obsession with sight and representation, a central allegory for the status of the camera lens.

Adhering to her belief in ‘contesting the philosophy of sight as the primary means of comprehending the world’, varied images are spliced together and placed against flat backgrounds, false skies, and thick black strips that separate and interrupt our vision, accompanied by a combination of voice-overs that create a similar effect on our aural sensibility.
Alia Syed was born in Swansea, Wales and lives and works in London, UK. She has been working in experimental filmmaking for over two decades and has exhibited internationally including at Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid, Tate Britain and Tate Modern, MOMA, New York and the Sydney and Moscow Biennials.