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Tanya Syed
The alternatives presented in Syed's work are most clearly seen in Salamander. Here, an ambiguous, androgynous figure guides us through the streets, pulling our gaze away from the camera by turning away her head.

Her eyes are off-camera, and for most of the film we see only parts of her face, her neck and shoulders, her clothes and hands. Though elusive and fragmentary, her presence is pervasive; but she remains unknown to us, un-framed.

Syed is a composer as well as a film-maker, and the film's sense of space, and a complex, fluid, environment is created by overlapping sound sequences: footsteps, snatches of music, recordings and Syed's own compositions, which evoke the sounds of the street and the locations it leads to and encompasses. A sinuous flute sound creates the sense of a particular journey, but also evokes the sound of passing traffic, the wail of brakes in the distance and a vivid spatial and temporal scene. The flute sound is adapted to carry the visual material, like eerie fragments borne on a recurring wail. "The tail end of the sound" is combined with extraordinary visual phenomena - the glistening vertical surfaces of a vehicle in motion, its industrial underside and hidden horizontal surfaces - to convey the light, enigmatic gaze that travels through these public spaces, recording their resonance in this shifting cultural scene.

The film opens with a view of the distant Cyprus Kebab House: two overlapping shots, blurred and brightly-lit in the vortex of the midnight street. The image is broken and continues as people pass. A wail of sound brings closer the passing traffic, and a blur of lights coalesces into the movement of the road. The film's fragmented visual scenes are somehow linked to the movement of this figure; but there is no eyeline and no exchange of views. Rather a flow of scenes and locations are documented and returned to as if in passing: a group of people playing cards in a bright interior, traffic moving towards the camera, people passing a distant doorway; and between these, close-up fragments of this enigmatic figure's clothes and hands. Since her eyes are beyond our view, the city exists outside her gaze; just as the figure exists beyond and without our vision.

On one level, the film expresses the encounter between different cultures, through the rippling sound and rhythm that suggests an interior world, and the harsher sounds of popular songs. On another level, the encounter is with the enigma of other women. Off the street, in a hazy interior, the traveller's hands tap keys to flick up playing card images of queens. Outside, a woman is driving, her bracelets glinting at the industrial wheel in the city light. Though we do not follow her gaze (any more than that of the other women Syed encounters in passing), there is a glancing connection, an erotic charge as the driver's hand pushes the gears forward. For a moment there is a pause in the film's sound and visual rhythm: a red light; and we see the Flaneuse' eyes.

In Syed's film there is no one originating point of vision. It is a view into a continuum, with overlapping signs and variable entry points according to the rhythm and texture of the scene. With no eyeline views and with fluid, fragmentary shots of these various locations, the city is evoked as a place of multiple and co-existent presences, existing beyond one defining or unifying perspective - although a temporal presence is hinted at in the presence of this enigmatic figure.

Still from Salamander by Tanya Syed, 1994
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