Flying Rug of Drones (2009 -)

ArtAsiaPacific (Shelli Zhang):

Syed’s work takes the form of an oval-shaped mobile made from box-cutter blades crafted into minimalist drones. Referencing the weapons that were used by the hijackers of the 2001 Twin Tower attacks in New York, while assuming the form of military technology used in retaliation by the United States, the material and shape of the work creates a dialogue of the recent conflict between the Middle East and the West. A perfect rendition of juxtaposed motifs, The Flying Rug of Drones hung precariously close above viewers—as a testament of regional conflict fuelled by fear and violence—and invited those who dared to walk under its looming shadows.

Catalogue: "Beyond Measure: Domesticating Distance" at Robert Maclaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, Ontario, (Ambereen Siddiqui):

A minimalist angular hexagonal grid pattern is projected as the shadow of a circular rug. Box cutter knife blades attached together in the shape of drones hang overhead to cast this shadow. Viewers are invited with a dare, to walk under the blades, to hold a filtered fear, to experience a simulated anxiety. “The Flying Rug of Drones” by Sydney based artist Abdullah M. I. Syed captures the fascination and fear of the East, referencing both the magical rug form Arabian Nights as well as the carpet bombings with drones that have become a hallmark of American intervention. Originally from Karachi, Pakistan Abdullah [is] witnessing Pakistan’s mercurial bearings from afar. [His] response, like those of so many artists from the diaspora, can’t escape the ripples the politics of their homeland creates. In using the symbol of the flying rug, Abdullah references the myths and legends created around covering distances instantly, while acknowledging that the drone has perhaps surpassed this fantasy, in being operated remotely. 


Flying Rug (2008 -)

Materials: US dollar banknotes (mint, uncirculated, consecutive serial) and staple pins
Sculpture dimensions: 97 (L) x 70 (W) x 3
(H) cm
Framed option: 117 (L) x 90 (W) x 8 (H) cm

The Flying Rug sculpture series is an ongoing investigation of contemporary art within the framework of capital, politics, migration and consumption of power. The US dollar bills are folded into paper planes to form an Islamic geometric pattern rug. Carpets and rugs hold cultural, traditional and religious importance in Islamic societies like Pakistan - famous for its handmade rugs which are major export products. The name, Flying Rug refers to the Arabian tales of magic carpets, and the shadows on the wall suggest an ‘Oriental’ dream. This dream, specifically for many Muslim men in Pakistan and in the Middle East, translates into migration from the East to the West for security, peace and a better financial future. However, the moment the rug reveals itself as a hive of planes in the viewer’s mind, this dream changes into the current reality of the post 9/11 conflicts across the world - anxiety and fear of air travel, asylum seekers, terrorist attacks and Islamophobia. Conversely, the rug also suggests the ‘accidental’ fascination with the East and the American colonisation of the Islamic World. Its poetic materiality uses currency to make autonomous art, while ironically the work affirms the interdependency of art and economy, the commercialisation of art, and culturalisation of economy.

The resulting narratives of Flying Rug are rooted in the ambiguous relationships between fact and fiction, fantasy and reality, placed in the crosshairs of historical and modern-day mythologies. Encoded with such myths and dreams, The Flying Rug installation is a poetic critique of the impact of oriental, colonial and imperial readings of economics and geo-political conflicts on the transnational identities like Syed, a Pakistani born Muslim male living in diaspora.


  • The New York Times Company: Pakistan's Palette of Blood and Tears