Fia Backström

Visual Artist
Born Åland Islands, Finland, 1958
Lives in New York, NY

The grant gave me the time and the freedom to focus on my work in a way not tied up to productivity, pressure, or economic institutions per se, which must be the best gift any artist can receive.

Fia Backström, December 3, 2010


Fia Backström is an artist and an educator who works in a wide range of media, including writing, performance, installation, ephemera, audiovisual means, photography, and formats of display. Her practice occasionally incorporates works by other artists frequently and peers, visitors, and institutional staff alike are invited to participate.

With the support of her 2010 Grants to Artists, Backström presented The Worker Through the Ages at the Moderna Museet, Stockholm in 2010. Backström created an environment for The Worker Through the Ages that included paintings that represent proletarian culture and a print of a Swedish labor agreement. The artist hosted events in the space in which she addressed the audience and museum technicians and a curator performed their tasks. She has since presented work in the Venice Biennale (2011) and at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León (2013).

Backström has shown works in international solo exhibitions at venues including Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York (2006); Marabouparken Annex, Stockholm (2007); White Columns, New York (2008); The Apartment, Vancouver (2009); and Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (2009). She had also participated in group exhibitions at the United Nations Plaza, Berlin (2007); Serptentine Gallery, London (2007); the Whitney Biennial (2008); and The Baltic, Newcastle, England (2009).

Backström studied at the University of Stockholm and Columbia University for her undergraduate studies, and received an M.F.A. from Konstfack University of College of Arts, Crafts and Design, Stockholm. Backström co-chairs the photography department at the Milton Avery Graduate School of Arts at Bard College. She also teaches in the M.F.A. program at the Columbia University School of the Arts and the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University.

Artist Statement

Luring language reigns rampant and generic, while iconoclastic moves on the image abound. I can't smoke you out, because smoking indoors is not permitted. This carpet of slipping senses, handy words for twisted meanings and cunning usage—a visceral occupation of territory for U.S. to inhabit. So Words, Don't Fail Me Now!

These are the bankrupt words of the undermined rhetoric no longer yours: a for agency, f for freedom, r for resistance.

Exceptions made for CO-rporations or your CO-operative spirit turning them into secret mantras for entertainment—a for Parisian model agence or f as in F U Calvin Klein far out signification. R as in rotten rhubarb pie, somehow anti-slogans enter the ads. Language development from think tank to focus group, finding selling words for a movement of merchandizing ideas. The right name is everything!

Cult action, group therapy, corporate brainwashed consumer combatants. Together we feel good. Crowd behavior: removing the inhibitions of the individual, no personal responsibility. Yet community is pressure. The formerly functional organization of pockets of activity, the dead-end possibility of the communist collective manifestations, the increasing sophistication of corporate communal outreach, the Hippie yearnings for the primal gathering, the “We-They identity" of exclusive clubs and gated communities, the projected goodness of “productive get-togethers" from the family to the national, the pretense of equality. Community as communication as co-appearance - - Stay Connected.

December 2009