Fia Backstrom

Artforum International, November 2006 | Go to article overview

Fia Backstrom


Fia Backstrom is a New York-based artist whose work has recently been included in "Bring the War Home" at Elizabeth Dee Gallery in New York and "Minotaur Blood" at Fortescue Avenue in London. She will participate in the exhibition "Looking Back," opening this month at New York's White Columns, and in the winter will contribute to the "United Nations Plaza" seminar program in Berlin. She has had texts published in Pacemaker and North Drive Press.

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1 A TRAFFIC LIGHT--bright green, yellow, and red; a confusing go-wait-stop message--was the logo for Karl Holmqvist's understated installation at Stockholm's Marabouparken last spring. In his most recent book, I on a Lion in Zion, "cut-up" text (a la Gysin and Burroughs) is layered on a black-and-white Op-art pattern. A flimsy pavilion made from the book's pages housed televisions that transmitted the artist reading the text in his drowsy monotone. Graphics and words interacted in unexpected ways. Why not? One of his works, a wine-bottle label, reads: GIVE POETRY A TRY!

2 THE COCA-COLA RED in Sister Corita Kent's 1967 serigraph things go better with serves as a background for activist quotations and for the work's title--a once-ubiquitous slogan of the beverage corporation. Between the early '50s and the mid-'80s, Kent was a nun, an activist, and a print artist working with appropriated language and imagery, selling her art cheap, en masse. Her work has been left primarily outside of the commercial-gallery world. A new book by artist Julie Ault titled Come Alive! The Spirited Art of Sister Corita focuses on Kent's work from the '60s.

3 THE CHEAP, GRAY needle-punch carpeting used in many art fairs is used in countless ways--hanging shapelessly ceiling-to-floor; highlighting administrative structures--in the interiors designed by Uglycute for various cultural institutions. This Stockholm-based group turns the concept of good taste upside-down through its exhibitions, workshops, and magazine, Katsenjammer.

4 PROPAGANDA RED-AND-BLACK sets the type in artist Julieta Aranda's newspaper publications. Popular Geometry, done in collaboration with Anton Vidokle, is an ongoing, accruing collection of reprinted texts about the public sculpture of each area in which it has been released (Istanbul; Limerick, Ireland; Mexico City; Ljubljana, Slovenia)--a distributable kind of site-specificity. Aranda is currently collecting printing-press errors from copies of this and other papers, pointing at temporary ruptures in the chain of distribution where the failed mass-reproduced can generate value as unique one-offs.

5 THE BLUE-AND-WHITE Nivea logo was absent from "Ultra Peau: un voyage sensoriel" at Paris's Palais de Tokyo last spring. But a smell reminiscent of the skin cream hit the olfactory membranes as one entered the show, which was conceived by the company. An exhibition design that clumsily revealed its own construction and a slideshow--part art project, part documentary on Nivea's working conditions--showed both an understanding of the site's relational-aesthetics traditions and a self-reflective critical mode.

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