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Tanya Syed
In her current film, In Land (in progress, 2004), Tanya Syed continues the outward trajectory of Salamander by investigating the landscape of the natural world. This is preceded by her gallery installations, which have explored the potential of her images in different viewing situations prior to the completion of the film.

Here too, the various elements in Syed's film attempt to break the frame around the image. The landscape itself is drawn together visually, to become one place - one global location - from "mountains shot in Spain, Scotland, Norway and India". The environment is conceived as both a psychic and a material field. Its forces are elemental as well as animal and human; in Syed's vision reflecting elements in the human psyche. It is also a temporal location which exists at a particular period. The sounds which evoke the presences in this landscape include "piano music, location sound - the sound of crickets - but also the sound of the sea: the sound of the elements." Amongst these are "also the sounds that humans make …secular and sacred sounds, the sound of people demonstrating [or] chanting." But there is also the sound of bombs. This is "because there is a war on," Syed says, so "war forms the backdrop, almost the location, of the film." Although they are never seen, it is the sound of these presences - the sound of horses thundering towards and around us as viewers, for example - that locates us also, physically, within this complex environment.

Throughout Syed's films there are extraordinary single images, many of them yoga or martial positions of manifest physicality. Here, a figure performs a ritual movement in the foreground of a powerful image of nature: a desert plain or a plateau before mountains. These images have an extraordinary impact, existing as metaphysical as well as physical ones, and ones which, in the film-maker's words, "bring gender into one and spirituality into being." One of these is a "prayer shot" near the end of the film, where a figure's hands are seen cupped together, rising and falling against an ocean background. The image runs backwards as well as forwards, and the landscape loses focus and becomes visible behind the figure. It is as if this ritual movement is a way to balance such conflicting forces; and a means of expressing one form of human presence amongst the landscape's complex of presences. With this the film also extends the choreographic movement of the camera: "we move through spirals," says Syed; as she aims "to work with the still point at the centre of the spiral, the still point at the centre of movement."

Still from In Land by Tanya Syed, 2003
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