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Helena BlakerClick here to Print this Page
Tanya Syed
In her gallery work, Syed uses elements from In Land to explore the potential of these images and this way of filming.

With a circular movement the sea tilts and turns before our eyes, intensified by a slow zoom-in, to convey the power of elemental forces, the power of sea-water held between rocks. In another view the perspective on the sea is ambiguous, as if the tide moves forward while moving away, both familiar and reversed. An image of water suspended on its side moves like cloth or mercury. A reflected image of trees in water allows a phantom or mirage to emerge in the viewing: in this reflected image, Syed explains, "there is the actual mountain that we see - the body - and … then there is the reflection - the body in representation: neither are real, both are illusion. Filmed a certain way, a third thing emerges, pointing to the unseen, the invisible self that [appears] through a slight shift of focus."

As well as her representation of the complex forces in the living environment, Syed's exploratory techniques in choreography have a bearing on her concern with individual and social identity. All her films test a subtle formulation of gender, and gradually the primary figure of her films becomes "the androgyne … the embodiment of neither, or of both." This is consistent with her aim to challenge a fixed viewpoint, and to maintain a fluid viewpoint in her films. Like the composite landscape of In Land, her aim is to expose social space to a composite new view.

Like the rest of Syed's work, In Land attempts on various levels to open up the representation of the environment to a reality beyond the frame of unitary vision - beyond both an optical and a particular cultural frame. At the end of this film a figure walks out into the sea at the convergence of two tides. This relates back to the earlier films but is a significant departure from them, a further shift in Syed's own point of vision: "When you look at all three of the earlier films together … you realise they all end with someone coming out of a doorway. It's like a threshold," she says. "… In this new film I don't have a doorway. I am outside."

Helena Blaker is an artist and writer who has researched and managed new commissions in public art for international artists working in Britain, and curated a number of exhibitions of artists' work in performance, video and experimental film.

Helena Blaker
Still from Installed Film 1 by Tanya Syed, 2000
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