davidson.edu department of art

Allan deSouza and Alia Syed: Contents Under Pressure

February 25 – April 10, 2016


The Van Every/Smith Galleries and Davidson College are pleased to present Contents Under Pressure, featuring the works of Allan deSouza and Alia Syed. The exhibition will be on view in the Van Every Gallery February 25, 2016 through April 10, 2016, with an artist reception on March 10 from 6-8pm.

Allan deSouza is a multimedia artist whose work investigates the themes of travel, diaspora, and migration and their role in forming the racial and sexual identity of the body in a social and psychological context. The World Series (2011), comprised of sixty photographs, was inspired by Jacob Lawrence’s iconic The Migration Series (1941). The project invokes metaphorical, transcultural, political, and psychogeographical encounters; not only of the artist’s own experience, but also in broader themes related to international migration. The installation at the Van Every Gallery contributes to a growing narrative about those inhabiting many locations and psyches in a political, humorous, and poetic language.

deSouza was born in Kenya, and has since lived primarily in London, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. He is now based in the East Bay, where he is the Chair of the Department of Art Practice at UC Berkeley. deSouza works across different disciplines, including photography, text, performance, and pedagogy. His works have been shown extensively in the US and internationally, including at SF Camerawork; the Phillips Collection, Washington, DC; the International Center for Photography, NY; Pompidou Centre, Paris, France; Gwangju Biennale, Korea; Guangzhou Triennale, China. His current book-length projects include How Art Can Be Thought, an examination of art pedagogy and a lexicon of terms used within the art critique; and Ark of Martyrs, a rhyming “rewrite” and accompanying video installations of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. His writings have been published in various journals, anthologies, and catalogues, including Third Text, London, the online Art Practical and Shifter Journal, NY. He is represented by Talwar Gallery, NY and New Delhi.

Syed is a British filmmaker and artist whose work integrates her interest in storytelling, history, and visual narrative. Her work, including the two that are being presented at Davidson College, Panopticon Letters: Missive I and On a Wing and a Prayer, examine notions of cultural difference and gender in relation to diaspora and location. Panopticon Letters: Missive I investigates her belief in “contesting the philosophy of sight as the primary means of comprehending the world” through the dissonance of both sound and images of the Thames. It uses Jeremy Bentham’s idea of the ‘panopticon’ prison of 1787. A panopticon prison features one central point of surveillance, where the warden sits, in the middle of a ring of prisoner cells. From this vantage point, the warden is given a heightened sense of control over the prisoners. In Syed’s film, Panopticon Letters: Missive I, the Thames is juxtaposed with different images of false skies and backgrounds to create a feeling of dissonance within the projected notion of harmony between water and sky. Accompanying the excerpt of Bentham’s text is the artist’s own short text, Haunting I, as well as male and female voices reciting Psalm 139 in Hebrew and Jacobean English, respectively.

On a Wing and a Prayer, Syed’s newest film, will premiere at the Van Every/Smith Galleries. The work explores the physical and emotional feats of migrants, and was inspired by the August 2015 arrest of Abdul Rahman Haroun, a Sudanese man seeking asylum who walked 50 kilometers through the Channel Tunnel from France to England. Haroun was arrested for obstructing a railway under an outdated 19th century law. After months in prison, he was granted asylum by the UK in January 2016.

Born in Swansea, Wales, Syed lives between London and Glasgow. She received her BFA from University of East London in 1987 and a Postgraduate degree in Mixed Media from Slade School of Fine Arts in 1992. Her films have been shown at numerous institutions such as BBC Arts Online; The Triangle Space: Chelsea College of Arts; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; 5th Moscow Biennale; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museo National Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid; XV Sydney Biennale; Hayward Gallery, London; Tate Britain, London; Glasgow Museum of Modern Art, Scotland; Iniva, The New Art Gallery in Walsall; and Tate Modern, London. Syed is represented by Talwar Gallery, NY and New Delhi.

A small publication will be available featuring an essay by Alice Correia, professor at University of Salford, UK. This exhibition is a collaboration with Talwar Gallery, New York and New Delhi, and Deepak Talwar, Davidson College Class of 1988, and was made possible through the generous support of Malú Alvarez, Davidson College Class of 2002.



Opening Reception – Thursday, March 10, 6-8 pm; gallery talk at 5 pm

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