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Abdullah M.I. Syed

Born in 1974 in Karachi (Pakistan)
Lives and works between Karachi, Sydney (Australia) and New York (USA)

Abdullah M.I. Syed holds a PhD in Art, Media and Design (2015) and a Master of Fine Arts (2009) from the University of New South Wales, Sydney. He also holds a Master of Education (2001) and a Bachelor of Art in Design (1999) from the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO), USA. Syed also coordinated the Department of Design at Karachi University and has lectured at UCO and UNSW Art & Design. Syed’s works have been featured in ten solo exhibitions and several national and international curated group exhibitions and performance events such as Asia TOPA: Asia-Pacific Triennial of Performing Arts, Melbourne (2017), Substitute, Fairfield City Museum and Gallery, Sydney (2016), Between Structure and Matter, Aicon Gallery, New York (2016), 48HR Mass Group Incident, 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Sydney (2015) and The Rising Tide, Mohatta Palace Museum, Karachi (2010) to name a few. He has also participated in numerous art fairs including Art Central, Hong Kong where he performed The Flying Buck. Syed’s work is also held in many private and public collections notably Devi Art Foundation, AAN collection, Casula Powerhouse and the US Art in Embassy Islamabad. Syed’s awards include the Blacktown Art Prize (2010), the UNSW Postgraduate Research Scholarship (2009) and the IAO Installation Art Award (2003).

Bucking is Abdullah M. I. Syed’s live performance in which he consumes and regurgitates a menu of fresh uncirculated banknotes and addresses the weightiness of the effects of over exerting economical power that no one is immune to. Since first performing the piece in Karachi in 2011, Syed has performed Bucking in multiple cities around the world including Sydney, Australia at 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art in 2015. By presenting a video archive of this performance at KB17, Syed pays homage to the performance returning to its place of origin – Karachi, the financial hub of Pakistan. Bucking is a fascinating and at times confrontational look at the central role money plays in economies of consumption and exchange and how money often navigates cultural and political identities and power structures. In the video, the US dollar bill becomes a dominant instrument of addressing complex renderings of the dysfunctions of global market economies, the dissemination of power, and intrinsic neo-colonial concerns. Where the body of the artist is in immediate play, occupied in acts of repetition and endurance, so too is the larger body of the audience, who become witnesses of this seemingly playful but so often violent act.

Still strip from Bucking: Sydney, 2015.
Video documentation of live performance, 15:23 min.
Courtesy the artist and 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Sydney
Photography: Zan Wimberley
Artist portrait: Mim Stirling