Alia Syed: Routes Through

Image of a film by Alia Syed, 'Priya'

Alia Syed is one of the most singular and expressive artists working to unravel, via the moving image, the experience of the diaspora. Having started making films at the London Filmmakers’ Cooperative in the 1980s, her work departed from the structuralist concerns of many of her peers to think instead about identity, representation and the legacies of colonialism. Informed by her mixed-race upbringing in Glasgow, by turns political and playful, her films trace the lines that connect and frame that divide – underpinned always by a deep interest in the possibilities and effects of language.

Syed joins us to present a programme of work from the early Fatima’s Letter (1992), a formally beautiful, elliptical work on 16mm whose subtitles play with and tease its English-speaking audience; to On a Wing and a Prayer (2016), inspired by the story of Abdul Rahman Haroun, who walked through the Channel Tunnel on 17th August 2015 and was subsequently held on remand for five months at Elmley Prison. Syed will also preview an excerpt from her new film Snow.

Presented in partnership with BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, in the context of the exhibition John Akomfrah: Ballasts of Memory (6 July – 27 October 2019).

Alia Syed’s practice as a filmmaker tests the conventions of writing. Even though her films deploy a narrative structure they do so to unravel the very idea of beginnings and endings that is necessary to the act of making sense. Instead she uses repetition, circularity and the layering of word and image to explore the conditions under which the subject of language and desire is made present but also eludes our grasp.’ —Amna Malik, Slade School of Fine Art

Friday 25 October 2019
Tyneside Cinema (Roxy)
Book tickets


On a Wing and a Prayer

Alia Syed

Video, colour, sound

Points of Departure

Alia Syed



Alia Syed


Fatima’s Letter

Alia Syed


About the artist

Alia Syed was born in Swansea, and lives between London and Glasgow. She has been making experimental films in Britain for over 25 years. Syed’s films have been shown at numerous institutions around the world. Most recently she was Artist in Focus at Courtisane Festival Gent in Belgium (2019). Other exhibitions of note include, Delirium Equilibrium at Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi (2018), Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2012-13, 5th Moscow Biennale (2013); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2010); Museo National Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid (2009); XV Sydney Biennale (2006); Hayward Gallery, London (2005); Tate Britain, London (2003); Glasgow Museum of Modern Art, Scotland (2002); Iniva, London (2002); The New Art Gallery in Walsall (2002); and Tate Modern, London (2000).