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Los Angeles County Museum of Art presents West Coast debut of experimental filmmaker Alia Syed
Alia Syed, Still from Eating Grass, 2003. 16mm film, transferred to HD DVD, Sound, 22:56 min. Photo: Courtesy of the artist and Talwar Gallery, New York/New Delhi.
LOS ANGELES, CA.- Experimental filmmaker Alia Syed makes her West Coast debut at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art with an installation of her film Eating Grass (2003), on view from August 11, 2012–July 28, 2013. Filmed in Karachi, Lahore, and London, Eating Grass comprises five overlapping narratives, each representing different emotional states experienced throughout the day that are marked by the Muslim tradition of the five daily prayers. The film’s title references a remark made by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1974 amid the nuclear arms race with India, who said his people would have their own nuclear weapon even if it meant “eating grass.”

While the title evokes a particular moment in Pakistan’s history, the film itself captures the ebb and flow of urban dwellers as they move through bustling streets and marketplaces and quiet interior spaces from morning to night. Syed questions traditional notions of storytelling and language in her work to explore issues of identity, representation, and intercultural communication. Syed’s process is labor-intensive, shooting first in 16mm film and then reshooting each frame with an optical printer. Objects in the same scene appear to be moving at different speeds. Colors and figures flash in and out of focus like fragmented memories. A layered soundtrack mixed with passes of Syed’s prose — recited in English and Urdu — plays over this landscape, adding yet another narrative dimension to the work.

Alia Syed (Wales, b. 1964) lives and works in London. She completed her Bachelor’s in Fine Arts from University of East London in 1987 and Postgraduate work in Mixed Media from Slade School in 1992. While pursuing experimental filmmaking over the last two decades, Syed has also taught 3 and lectured at Central St. Martins, and is currently teaching at Chelsea School of Art. Syed’s work has been screened at film festivals and museums worldwide, including Tate Modern, London (2000, 2003), the XVth Sidney Biennale (2006), and most recently in the exhibition, On Line (2010), at
the Museum of Modern Art, NY. In 2002, Syed was the subject of a retrospective, Jigar, organized by the Institute of International Visual Artists (inIVA), that traveled to the Glasgow Museum of Modern Art (GOMA), Scotland, the New Art Gallery in Walsall, and the Turnpike Gallery in Manchester, UK.

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