Fia Backström
September 13, 2015 – February 6, 2016

When Fia Backström (b. 1970) started showing her work in New York in the early aughts, she self-organized under the moniker Fia Backström Productions and invited people to her loft. Her first official exhibition there, 1,000,000 People Including Satellite Suburbs, was aptly titled. How and why people come together—the terms of collective engagement—would be one of the perennial concerns of Backström’s practice over the next decade. Yet it was the title of an earlier trial run, called I’m Afraid of Everything, that offers clues as to where she’s heading now. Backström understands collectivity as not only a question of neighborhoods but of nervous systems, and the social as inseparable from sensorial force.… Read more

When Fia Backström (b. 1970) started showing her work in New York in the early aughts, she self-organized under the moniker Fia Backström Productions and invited people to her loft. Her first official exhibition there, 1,000,000 People Including Satellite Suburbs, was aptly titled. How and why people come together—the terms of collective engagement—would be one of the perennial concerns of Backström’s practice over the next decade. Yet it was the title of an earlier trial run, called I’m Afraid of Everything, that offers clues as to where she’s heading now. Backström understands collectivity as not only a question of neighborhoods but of nervous systems, and the social as inseparable from sensorial force.

The entanglement of matter and meaning—in concrete poetry, in presidential rhetoric, in the modulations of the human voice—will be points of departure for a series of installations and events with Fia Backström at The Artist’s Institute over the next six months.

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Part Four, January 8 – February 7, 2016

Some people say that WiFi makes their skin break out in hives. Bright lights make one in ten erupt into sneezing fits. For the last month of her season Fia Backström’s work (re-fragment, rim, timbre, trajectory), 2016 re-calibrates similar hypersensitivities. Surfaces have been bristled by electric currents and acids, blotched by the prints of fingers and wood blocks, and whatever else floats through the air. On the walls, technological surfaces—the anodized aluminum of a Mac, plexi smudged like a touch screen—bear the reactions and overreactions to both natural forces and human affect. Together with the weird shadows, stains, and reflections generated in Backström’s environment, the works activate something like a shared autoimmune response; fitting, given that these are the final weeks of the Institute’s downtown space—a room pushing itself out.… Read more

Some people say that WiFi makes their skin break out in hives. Bright lights make one in ten erupt into sneezing fits. For the last month of her season Fia Backström’s work (re-fragment, rim, timbre, trajectory), 2016 re-calibrates similar hypersensitivities. Surfaces have been bristled by electric currents and acids, blotched by the prints of fingers and wood blocks, and whatever else floats through the air. On the walls, technological surfaces—the anodized aluminum of a Mac, plexi smudged like a touch screen—bear the reactions and overreactions to both natural forces and human affect. Together with the weird shadows, stains, and reflections generated in Backström’s environment, the works activate something like a shared autoimmune response; fitting, given that these are the final weeks of the Institute’s downtown space—a room pushing itself out.

Installation Guide

Moving across a surface, touching what is above, and what is under, not visible or perceptible
What I cannot see still affects me
What I cannot feel still affects me
What I cannot sense still affects me

– Fia Backström, The Growth and Its Perennials, performance text, 2014

 

1 Surface
At first, smudges; then slowly the edges of an illuminated letter start to go dark. The repetition of the consonant—V, click, click, click, v, click, click, V, click—means that after several years and many late nights, V disappears. A keyboard with a missing character, etched out as it is rendered in virtual space.

 

2 Current
Anodized aluminum, the kind that frames the black keys of the MacBook Pro, gets its matte finish and corrosion-resistant surface from a jolt of electricity. After being immersed in an acid electrolyte bath with a current running through it, the microscopic crystal structures of the aluminum plate begin to grow, becoming more porous.

 

3 Reflection
A well-known psychoanalyst once wrote about a sardine can glistening in the sun: “That which is light looks at me, and by means of that light in the depths of my eye, something is painted, but something that is an impression, the shimmering of a surface that is not, in advance, situated for me in its distance.” Of course even when we don’t look, electromagnetic waves intersect with a metal surface and induce small oscillations of electrons, causing each particle to radiate a small secondary wave in all directions. Visible light bouncing off a hard, silver can.

 

4 Projection
The great illusion of a shadow is that there is communication between its points: that it moves as a contained object. But of course in actuality, the decrease or increase of a shadow’s length, its propensity to expand or contract or change shape, is actually due to new projections that propagate at the speed of light from the point of obstruction. The density of the interfering material, the brightness of the light, the way that a breeze moves through the room, all affect the diffuseness of the shadow image, its layering and multiplicity.

 

5 Contact
Photogravure is a form of intaglio printmaking developed in the early 1800s as a means to make etchings by light. As a film positive is contact printed to gelatin tissue and exposed to ultraviolet light, the image becomes a differentiated topography of peaks and valleys that hardens upon exposure. When affixed to a copper plate and submerged in ferric acid, the rolling surface once again transfers dimension to the plate’s surface as the copper erodes. Ink collects in these cracks and valleys. Pressed downwards to paper, an image emerges, delicately carved into its cottony face. Gradation is perceptible to the eye not only in tone but also in subtle surface depth.

 

6 Gut
Energy consumption computation happens in the innards of a building—its basement or back hallway, places that are dusty and dimly lit. The standard power meter is a clock-like device with small gears that revolve based on the current withdrawal. The revolutions are recorded on dials; the more power that is consumed, the faster the gears rotate.

 

7 Exposure
When exposed to bright light without relief, the eye’s photoreceptors adapt to this overstimulation and lose sensitivity. Micro-movements generally move an image to different parts of the retina, but when an eye stays still for too long, or intercepts an especially large image, exhaustion kicks in. There’s not enough photo pigment to signal the brain, and an afterimage occurs—a black spot where the original has disappeared.

– Jenny Jaskey

Performance Text

Fia Backström
The Growth and Its Perennials, 2014, performance script excerpt

In the Philippines Hurricane Haiyan has brought about the loss of thousands of human lives. An unknown number of animals, plants and objects have been uprooted, destroyed and killed.

Plastic in the ocean spreads bits of toxic chemicals that end up in animals or gets in contact with humans as it moves onto shore. News reports have cited a statistic that the ubiquitous plastic receptacles take 500 years to break down in landfills. How do we know? Actually, we don’t. Plastic bags have only been around for about 50 years, so there’s no firsthand evidence of their decomposition rate.

50 500 decomposition rates, interest rates, the rate that the heart beats, statistical charts, years upon years

Nature and the radioactive
Nature and viral disease
Nature and decay
Nature and contagion
Nature and regrowth
Nature and other multiplicities
Nature and reproduction
Nature and mutation
Nature is and nature was
Nature will become
Nature is and nature is becoming
Nature was and never will be again
Nature is now and nature is then and there

The invisible part of radioactivity
The invisible part of the medicated body
The invisible part of rotting decay
The invisible part of our innermost feelings
The invisible part of what is in-between us

The medicated body
The radiated body

our bodies—gene manipulated nutrients, plastic toxins, mind altering medications entering the eco-system of our bodies—we become what flows through us

Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa, Ritalin, Zyprexa, Depakote, Lexapro, Luvox, Buspar, Nardil, Elavil, Sinequan, Pamelor, Serzone, Desyrel, Norpramin, Tofranil, Adapin, Vivactil, Ludiomil, Endep, Parnate, Remeron

Close to 10 percent of the United States’ population are on antidepressants, with 30 available brands on the market, how did a once rare condition become so common?

The mental and the nuclear
The psychotropic and the misanthropic

The number of psychotropic drugs for children has doubled over the past fifteen years. 200 million prescriptions are written yearly for children and teenagers in the U.S. which all by definition, alter our minds, our emotions and our ways of relating to others. Children are getting three times more prescriptions for antidepressants and stimulants, and up to double the amount of antipsychotic drugs than kids from Europe. Our emotional intra-reality is changing. 30 10 200 doubled, $1 billion

Shire’s is now rolling out the $1 billion-a-year drug Vyvanse for kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADHD. They are encountering resistance in Europe. It seems Europeans don’t believe jittery kids that can’t pay attention constitute a medical problem. Bloomberg reports that cultural problems could restrain growth of the drug and thus of Shire’s economic prospects.

My body is no longer medicated. My body is out of the pharmaceutical/industrial complex. My body is detoxed after 20 years on anti-psychotic and anti-depressant drugs. My body is no longer medicated. At one point my body was on 7 different psychotropic drugs, some just to counter the side effects of others. My body is out of the pharmaceutical/industrial complex. My body is no longer medicated.

List of Works

Fia Backström, (re-fragment, rim, timbre, trajectory), 2016, mixed media environment, dimensions unknown.

Fia Backström, Touching Sensibles I–IV, 2015, photogravure and wood block prints, 25 7/8 × 34 inches, successive weekly display of four prints.

Fia Backström, Corpus Derived Morphology Analysis, 2016, inkjet print on transparency; pencil drawing by Roj Friberg, 1964, 21 7/8 × 16 inches; Rochelle Goldberg, Tan of Cuna, 2013—ongoing, two chromed tuna cans, 2 1/2 and 3 1/4 inches; cmd+v, 2015, inkjet print on luster paper mounted on anodized aluminum, 20 7/8 × 24 1/4 inches; Lowel Pro Photo Light, 250 watts, dimensions variable.

Fia Backström, A fluid orthographic plane, based in the movements of hands and eyes, 2016, two inkjet prints on luster paper mounted on frosted plexiglass, X; Lowel Pro Photo Light, 250 watts, dimensions variable.

All works courtesy the artist.

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Part Three, November 20 – December 20, 2015

Dachshund tax-assessment. The artist Öyvind Fahlström used that phrase (Tax-Taxering in the original Swedish) in his 1953 Manifesto for Concrete Poetry to express the possibility of a new kind of writing based on the associative play of words that had been previously ignored. Fia Backström’s text on aluminum plaques (Post-Sensitive Rhetorics, 2011) extend Fahlström’s provocation into contemporary advertising slang, political euphemism, and media innuendo that put word play to work. Clipped and cryptic, her verses take direct inspiration from the pseudo-poetry of HSBC’s “Different Values” ad campaign, which was recently collected by MoMA—a bizarre if befitting post-script. Alongside this work are two Fahlström prints from 1966 and 1973, whose prescience—in form and content—about the interactions between language and mass media make them as contemporary.… Read more

Dachshund tax-assessment. The artist Öyvind Fahlström used that phrase (Tax-Taxering in the original Swedish) in his 1953 Manifesto for Concrete Poetry to express the possibility of a new kind of writing based on the associative play of words that had been previously ignored. Fia Backström’s text on aluminum plaques (Post-Sensitive Rhetorics, 2011) extend Fahlström’s provocation into contemporary advertising slang, political euphemism, and media innuendo that put word play to work. Clipped and cryptic, her verses take direct inspiration from the pseudo-poetry of HSBC’s “Different Values” ad campaign, which was recently collected by MoMA—a bizarre if befitting post-script. Alongside this work are two Fahlström prints from 1966 and 1973, whose prescience—in form and content—about the interactions between language and mass media make them as contemporary.

Notes on Öyvind Fahlström

Continuous engagement with language is central to Öyvind Fahlström’s (1928–1976) multi-media art. His practice unfolded over three decades, an equal number of continents, and a variety of media: painting, sculpture and concrete poetry as well as film, radio, theatre, and cultural criticism. Fahlström was born in Brazil to a Swedish mother and a Norwegian father. In 1939, he was exiled in Sweden when the outbreak of WWII prevented his return to Brazil after a family visit; he was only reunited with his parents when they returned to Sweden years after the war ended. Even though he chose to become a Swedish citizen at the age of twenty, he never felt completely at ease in Swedish society. Throughout the 1950s he divided his time between Stockholm, Rome and Paris before moving to New York in 1961. Perhaps due to this peripatetic way of life, he was continuously able to analyze systems and conventions with the eyes of an outsider.

Fahlström was a pioneer in concrete poetry in the early 1950s. His concrete poetry is built upon the central notion of kneading, the process of manipulating language as if it were a physical material. In the text that formulated his artistic “program,” “Hipy Papy Bthuthdth Thuthda Bthuthdy” (1953), later given the additional title “Manifesto for Concrete Poetry” when it was published in 1966, Fahlström described “kneading” as thus:

KNEAD the linguistic material; this is what justifies the label concrete. Don’t just manipulate the whole structure; begin rather with the smallest elements—letters, words. Recast the letters as in anagrams. Repeat letters within words; throw in alien words, plea-vroog-se-do; interpose letters that don’t belong, aacatioaanniya for action; explore children’s secret code languages and other private languages; vocal glides: gliaouedly.i

 When the writer “kneads” a word, he or she manipulates language as concrete matter, and challenges established linguistic conventions of meaning and syntax. To give an example, Fahlström kneads the polite request “please do” by adding the harsh phonetic utterance “vroog.” Transformed in this way, the word gains both a “nonsense-dimension” and a “delay” in reception due to its additional phonetic quality. The overarching purpose of kneading is to oppose the smooth state of what Fahlström called the “Lalere,” or the “law of least resistance,” a condition in which words remain fixed and unchallenged within established systems of function and meaning.

Writing and language is one of several ways in which manipulation of information takes center place in Fahlström’s practice. The brightly colored screenprint Column no. 2 (Picasso 90) (1973) applies several graphic systems to an analysis of real-world data: the visual language of comic books, the mental topography of the Medieval map, and the text-image relation of a newspaper column. The work takes as its starting point a letter Fahlström wrote to Picasso asking the older artist to remove his painting Guernica (1937) from the Museum of Modern Art until the US completely withdrew from Vietnam. In it, Fahlström explores the responsibility of the artist to affect political agendas. He eerily precipitates a future in which the artist might take on the professional role of “creative worker,” rather than challenging political agendas: “Most art is not political, but artists can be!” reads one of the colored fields of Column no. 2 (Picasso 90). The work presents a sort of psycho-social of the world and relies on both colors, text and illustration to convey information. Blue denotes the US, violet Europe, red-to-yellow socialist countries, and green-to-brown the developing world. Fahlström believed that the colored background in his columns provided a model for painting that could “orchestrate data” and present “historical, economic, poetic, topical” ideas in a unified style.ii

Although he would work with the TV and the radio on, Fahlström was inherently suspicious of mass media’s political agenda. Column No. 2 (Picasso 90) engages a major theme in Fahlström’s late works: what he believed to be the hidden and unethical alliances between interventionist American foreign policies and large American corporations. His aim was to connect information normally compartmentalized into separate spheres and to make spectators “both understand and be outraged.”iii An earlier screenprint Eddie (Sylvie’s Brother) in the Desert (1966), explores a different point of tension: Fahlström’s mostly unrealized ambition to make his art accessible by working in low-cost formats. Upon buying the work, the owner could cut out elements and re-assemble them in various constellations, echoing the working logic of Fahlström’s so-called “variable” paintings and sculptures of this period. In these larger works, elements could be shifted around on the surface of the artwork according to the artist’s instructions.

Fahlström’s works narrate their politics through an engagement with the social fabric of language. In creating a dialogue between the poetic, the personal and the systematic, his art carves out a space for affect and, potentially, for political effects.

Maibritt Borgen

End Notes:

i Öyvind Fahlström, “Hipy Papy Bthuthdth Thuthda Bthuthdy,” translated in Antonio Sergio Bessa, Öyvind Fahlström: The Art of Writing (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press 2008)

ii “Historical Painting”, Flash Art no 43, 1973–74

iii “Historical Painting”, Flash Art no 43, 1973–74

Notes on Fia Backström's Post-Sensitive Rhetorics

There is a theory that all languages become flatter and flatter over time, burnished like circulated coins until they reach the bare minimum needed for exchange. In Fia Backström’s text plaques, Post-Sensitive Rhetorics (2011), the brushed-aluminum surfaces carry this possibility like a prologue: dull mirrors, the plaques reflect vague silhouettes and contours, preferring the silvery glare of smooth light to specific details. Printed on each plaque are short verses—three phrases punctuated by a line break and a last one proffering a quasi-conclusion:

DIPLOMATIC SQUIBBLES

SLIDING SQUIDS

ACCOUNTABILITIES

PARAMOUNT ABILITIES

Hendiatris—that ancient rhetorical device of emphatic grouping (“Friends, Countrymen, Romans—lend me your ears…”) is here put to the disorientating effect of leveling terms that barely hang together in the first place. In this case, a phonetic game associates the first and second lines through the consonance of the repeated “Sq-,” and the third and fourth lines with the assonance of “—abilities.”  Below the threshold for rhyme, this kind of prosody hints at resemblance without fully committing to it, doubling the semantic play of phrases which seem familiar while staying just out of reach of comprehension. A “squibble” might be a malapropism for the average of a quibble, a squabble, and a squib; “sliding squids,” is the type of euphemism that someone uses for years without actually knowing what it means. The plaques are funhouses for casual compression, warping the ergonomics of the management-speak that pervades communication.

This is poetry in and against the last stages of a language; the endpoint that linguists call “zero marking” wherein all grammatical distinctions fall away from the words themselves. Ligatures such as pronouns break away and meaning becomes positional—a relative question of word order and context. Linguists don’t often speculate about these things, but Backström’s choice of terms suggest that the abstracting machines of finance, politics, and advertising have whittled our syntax down to woolly terms that can be collated any which way. Her verses find in this the potential for a new kind of poetry, a laconic, relativistic language that tries to smooth itself along the back of a flattened world:

APPROVAL

APR RATE

ATP PPK

EMBRACE THE FACT

The repetition of similar sounds and letters, again well below the lilt of rhyme, tracks our halting understanding of the acronyms and their relations. A zero marked vernacular that prompts laughter more readily than meaning.

You have original
artworks hanging on the walls
oh I said edit

– John Ashbery, 37 Haiku

In an interview from 2011, when asked if these poems were related to Haiku, Backström responded that “the three line structure takes its cue from the chronically dialectic ad campaigns of HSBC bank. The fourth line seemingly offers release, while understanding is another cup of tea.”

The relevant part of the HSBC “Different Values” campaign featured sets of identical photographs with each photograph labeled with a different, contrasting “value.” A photo of an infant was labeled “love,” “legacy,” and “investment.” In other instances the pattern was reversed, with different photos—a vintage car, a couple clasping hands, a child planting a tree—labeled with the same word: “devotion.” The last panel of these advertisements, the dialectical synthesis, featured the bank’s logo and the assurance that HSCB, as “the world’s local bank,” was in the business of valuing cultural differences.

In fact, HSBC’s campaign advertisements are a kind of Haiku. Like so many western poets to adapt the Japanese form, HSBC has taken liberty with its 5-7-5 syllabic meter while retaining the form’s economy of means. Through dialectical juxtaposition, the ads compare dissimilar figures and then resolve their relationship in the final line:

A man, just one –
also a fly, just one –
in the huge drawing room.

– Kobayashi Issa, ca. 1800

In its compressed leaps of association towards a final resolution, HSBC recognized the Haiku form as the model for the perfect sales pitch. Backström’s plaques take HSBC’s Haikus and return them purposely damaged, their dialectical movement roughed by nonsense. If these plaques commemorate anything it is this twilight moment in which commercial sectors not only borrow from the reservoirs of poetic form, but also replenish them.

– A. E. Benenson

List of Works

On View, Nov 20 – Dec 20, 2015

Fia Backström, Post-Sensitive Rhetorics (chicago threesome), 2011, aluminum, dye sublimation print, 10 × 12 1/2 inches.

Fia Backström, Post-Sensitive Rhetorics (embrace the fact), 2011, aluminum, dye sublimation print, 10 × 12 1/2 inches.

Post-Sensitive Rhetorics (in the city out for lunch), 2011, aluminum, dye sublimation print, 10 × 12 1/2 inches.

Fia Backström, Post-Sensitive Rhetorics (paramount abilities), 2011, aluminum, dye sublimation print, 10 × 12 1/2 inches.

Fia Backström, Post-Sensitive Rhetorics (hands-on relief), 2011, aluminum, dye sublimation print, 10 × 12 1/2 inches.

Öyvind Fahlström, Column No. 2 (Picasso 90), 1973, screen print on paper, 33 × 25 inches (framed). Courtesy of Adam Baumgold Gallery.

Öyvind Fahlström, Eddie (Sylvie’s Brother) in the Desert, 1966, screen print on paper 19 × 23 inches (framed). Courtesy of Adam Baumgold Gallery.

On View, Sep 13 – Feb 7, 2016

Fia Backström, CO-, 2008, stainless steel, LED lights.

Fia Backström, Public Poem Pattern, 2015. Over the course of the next six months, Fia Backström will be inviting poets, artists, and writers to use the Artist’s Institute front gate as a platform for an evolving text changing every two weeks. At the end of the season, these text lines will be turned into a pattern on a table-cloth:

Nov 17 – Dec 1
Imri Sandström

Dec 1 – Dec 15
Sophia Le Fraga

Dec 15 – Dec 29
Divya Victor

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Part Two, October 9 – November 15, 2015

Ten years ago, Fia Backström opened lesser new york in her apartment. Responding to the limits of the art world that she saw reflected in PS1’s concurrent survey Greater New York, Backström hung ephemera from loose, local networks of friends and peers. How has our relationship to that work and to the institutional pressures that informed its making changed over the last decade? In order to reflect on these questions, The Artist’s Institute initiated the reinstallation of Backström’s project inside the current iteration of Greater New York. In parallel Backström has installed a new version of The Worker Through the Ages (2010) at The Artist’s Institute, repurposed from its initial context at the Moderna Museet. Taken together, these works and their transpositions consider the conditions under which artists  work collectively alongside institutions and one another.… Read more

Ten years ago, Fia Backström opened lesser new york in her apartment. Responding to the limits of the art world that she saw reflected in PS1’s concurrent survey Greater New York, Backström hung ephemera from loose, local networks of friends and peers. How has our relationship to that work and to the institutional pressures that informed its making changed over the last decade? In order to reflect on these questions, The Artist’s Institute initiated the reinstallation of Backström’s project inside the current iteration of Greater New York. In parallel Backström has installed a new version of The Worker Through the Ages (2010) at The Artist’s Institute, repurposed from its initial context at the Moderna Museet. Taken together, these works and their transpositions consider the conditions under which artists  work collectively alongside institutions and one another.

Conversation

In 2005, Fia Backström organized lesser new york, coinciding  with the second iteration of Greater New York, MoMA/PS1’s survey of regional con­temporary art. Displayed in her apartment as “a fia backström production,” lesser new york was part exhibition, part artwork, and part response to the P.S.1 show.

In his foreword to Greater New York 2005, Glenn Lowry, director of MoMA, singled out the effect of “the dramatic expansion of the art market” on the curator’s process: “[in] many ways the five years between these exhibitions has seen both a physical and metaphorical reconfiguring of the topography of the New York art world, with the advent of a new generation of dealers and collectors paralleling that of the artists. Where in 2000 it was possible to do an exhibition like Greater New York by primarily limiting our field of vision to artists who had not yet received serious or extensive attention, this was impossible in 2005.”

This was the context of Backström’s lesser new york: a moment in which it could be argued that the influence of dealers and collectors had made it impossible for a museum to find enough artists who were interesting but had not yet received serious or extensive attention.

Rather than concede this point, Backström reoriented the question of market-driven attention away from the “who” and towards the “what,” pointing out that the market, and by extension, exhibitions conditioned by it, had not given serious or extensive attention to certain kinds of works, specifically printed ephemera. Backström devised a hanging system for ephemera from eighteen local artists, curators, writers, teachers, publishers, and galleries, along with her own printed matter which, as she wrote in the press release, had been made “not necessarily as pieces nor to be sold…items that may have fallen through the cracks…work which may not be defined as work and which sometimes leaves no trace behind—Invisible New York.” The works included scans, photocopies, screen grabs, and posters that Backström patterned on her apartment walls in forms that recalled the visual density of historical artists’ salons, but also the geometric expressions of concrete poetry, and the windowed, scrollable columns of digital publishing. Prefiguring several later works such as That Social Space between Speaking and Meaning (2008), the installation was legible as a multiplication of both commercial and communist display techniques: the department store window and the public reading board.

A decade later, Backström has chosen to re-address some of  the salient questions of authorship, ephemerality, and collectivity raised by lesser new york through a different work, The Worker Through the Ages (2010). Originally a site-specific commission in Sweden’s Moderna Museet, The Worker Through the Ages (2010) involved a multi-part installation and performance. Backström covered a gallery wall with graphic wallpaper featuring images of laboring hands extracted from digital images. Nearby were several pine shelves, along with a dolly loaded with works of art related to labor from the museum’s collection, and digitally printed fabric with pasted snippets from an historically significant Swedish labor agreement from the 30s. During a performance in front of the wall, Backström, the museum’s curator, and a seamstress read from a prepared script. The curator directed museum workers to attach the shelves to the wallpapered background and hang the works on them, while the seamstress stitched cushion covers from the fabric to be used as seating in the finished installation.

At The Artist’s Institute, Backström has repurposed the work’s original hanging structure—the same wallpaper and wooden shelves—while filling it with new content: printed matter concerning the collective working processes of several contemporary New York-based artists, including members of CAGE, Elizabeth Orr and Emma Hedditch, and Radio Al Cabira.

In a recent conversation with the Institute’s curatorial staff, transcribed below, Backström discussed the connections between the works and her shifting role as their author.

 

Jenny Jaskey: Both your repurposed version of The Worker Through the Ages (2010) at The Artist’s Institute, as well as lesser new york (2005) at MoMA/P.S.1 incorporate ephemera from peers with whom you’ve shared an artistic dialogue. One key difference between the two is that lesser new york is comprised of ephemera whose authorship is, for the most part, attributable to single artists, while for our installation you’ve chosen pieces that thematize the conditions of artists’ collective work. You mentioned earlier that this difference reflects an ethical shift that took place between 2005 and 2015 in how you approach artistic production.

Fia Backström: Both address forms of art making that are based in exchange, but yes, for The Worker Through the Ages, the selected works are deeply collaborative and the conditions for working together are dealt with self-reflexively, raising questions of who gets to make decisions, how these decisions are valorized, and the forms of visibility involved. Whereas with the ephemera in lesser new york, many of the proposed subject positions come from a market structure, such as invented gallerists and curators.

JJ: So the two installations reflect a shift in the way that artists, including you, think about value production.

FB: The works included in The Worker Through the Ages at The Artist’s Institute all share the belief that to create change we need to reconsider how value is produced. CAGE’s utility bills printed on gold leaf, for example, were intended to be sold in the art market to generate income to cover the infrastructural costs they depict, including CAGE’s water, electricity, insurance, and telephone bills. This work came out of quite complex ideas and discussions about conditions of economy and collaboration. Emma Hedditch and Elizabeth Orr’s poster also raises very specific concerns about how to work together, such as how we work out how to communicate with each other. lesser new york was also an attempt, a different one, to think about value in another way. In Greater New York at that time, in 2005, most artworks were made for gallery display. If you analyzed the list of artists in the show, you could discern an even distribution among some galleries. This is not an uncommon way to balance production budgets, but it also has ideological effects that shape histories; it erases artists who for various reasons are not represented by galleries, and it overlooks art-making operations that are not registered in singular objects.

The ephemera here at The Artist’s Institute directly addresses attempts to create value beyond established forms of authoring, such as through social and ethical choices like trust. The ephemera in lesser new york are often traces from events for other discrete artworks — such as, for example, Josh Smith’s exhibition posters. In his practice, poster production exists alongside paintings and he reconsiders the hierarchy between the two mediums. So while in one sense, Josh destabilizes how we think about value as it relates to the medium an artist uses, he still operates as a singular artist when it comes to authorship.

JJ: What about your relationship to the ethics of collaboration? In lesser new york and in the installation here, you take all of these other artists’ works and then make a meta-work out of all of them.

FB: I knew this was going to come up.

JJ: [Laughter] Yes, we have to address it. One could argue, though it seems far from your intention, that you are cannibalizing everybody else’s work—all of those networks that you’ve built—for your own benefit as an artist.

FB: One could say that. But to consider the question of the meta-author, I am thinking of lesser new york as an object onto itself, where the logic of display was my contribution. This logic came out of certain concerns about the display of text in space, reading practices, and a resistance to the lounge in relational aesthetics. Everything needs to have a form, and no form is neutral. The ephemera could have been displayed in vitrines in the gallery, but that is an established institutional historical form, carrying its own meaning. We could have had collective meetings to decide on a common form or individual ones, but we were not organized as a group, and had we been, that would have been another work.

This morning, when Carissa [Rodriguez] couldn’t find the file for her poster, she proposed to put up two of the glued, ripped posters from the first iteration of the show as a document. My response was that it couldn’t be done, since lesser new york is an object with a definite form. I was interested in devising a system for hanging in which the visual logic exists between display windows featuring seductive, decorative, repetitive, mirrored patterns and that of a communist newspaper pasted to the wall, requiring readers to stand and read together with effort. So the work attempts to stimulate a commodity-desiring gaze that would lure the body into activating the walls and generate a collective reading experience.

In lesser new york, by considering reception, I was trying to propose a shift in the hierarchy of art production by orchestrating how ephemera operates in exhibitions. To do that, I needed ephemera. So content operates on several layers in this work—there is the ephemera itself, but the structure of the hanging is also the content of the work, a work that parasites on the ephemera that it contains.

A.E. Benenson: Is your role as what you call a meta-author the same in both exhibitions?

FB: In lesser new york I devised a specific structure for hanging in relation to what I wanted to address, which entailed some homogenizing ‘violence’ on the material. For this show I have restructured an existing work, The Worker Through the Ages, which was a performance-installation consisting of a display structure to hang specific works from the collection of Moderna Museet in Stockholm. It seemed a fitting piece to use, since this work and the ephemera both address conditions of labor.

AEB: By appropriating an existing work, are you somehow changing your role as a meta-author?

FB: Yes, here at The Artist’s Institute, instead of adjusting the contributors’ work, I am adjusting or doing violence to an older artwork of mine.

JJ: For both installations you involved artists in a dialogue about what it meant to use their works and how. There was an ethics to what you were doing from the beginning.

FB: Not only artists—curators, writers and educators too. In lesser new york there was a clear way that I took authorship over the structure, a way that was close to the strategy I later developed of lifting artworks of others into my own work. When I lifted things, the concern was to never lift from an artist whose work was not defined yet, because then it would be vulnerable to re-contextualization. Everyone that was part of lesser new york were becoming defined, if nascent authorships based in proper names and exhibition making. On the other hand, many who were part of CAGE don’t work in proper-name authorships, either by choice or because they haven’t been given access to these structures of visibility. Also, CAGE is a fluid group—it’s not really clear who has been part of making the golden bills displayed here. This, together with the questions Emma Hedditch and Elizabeth Orr’s poster raise about how we decide to work together, is why devising a top authoring structure is not the way I would like to approach the work here at The Artist’s Institute. When I repurpose an existing structure rather than a hierarchical relationship, several things meet that all have histories, and in being next to each other they negotiate each others’ presence with no perfect fits. There’s something softer in this approach. In lesser new york, items are hung with mass-produced repeatability in mind, whereas in The Artist’s Institute, works are treated as unique and have a different relationship to aura.

JJ: Is the installation here considered an artwork?

FB: I don’t think it is an artwork onto itself, but rather a structure of another work that has been repurposed and has new objects hung with it. The strategy of repurposing an older work for new use interests me. It’s more intimate than a vitrine. The structure is listed on the checklist as a severed work along with all the individual pieces, while for lesser new york, even the labeling system was part of its visual program.

JJ: It would not be a charitable read, but I’m still not convinced that someone couldn’t say that you’re producing value for yourself by visualizing your social network.

FB: Of course one can interpret it that way. The question is what kind of value; commodity value, historical value, social value? Value to be realized how and by whom? For example, compared to many lesser new york participants, I have never had gallery representation. We always create value through whatever we do, which is a layered production that travels in multiple directions, even here. Yes, there is a social network or an extended community, but the social side of the network is also part of the material for my work. I couldn’t work if I couldn’t work with my social network.

JJ: That’s interesting. It seems you’ve become more self-reflexive about the network and how it’s used as you’ve developed your practice. The Worker Through the Ages reflects on itself and the way it produces value, who is involved and to what ends. In a way that wasn’t as true with lesser new york.

FB: Well, I think another difference is that the investigation shifted into looking for new forms of production enabled by both networks and intimate connections. Rather than operating as a top author with existing material, I have immersed myself in these structures. Speaking of social networks, I think it’s interesting that in 2005 Facebook hardly existed. Nobody I knew had an account then. So, lesser new york can be seen as a very analog proto map of what’s happening on everyone’s ‘walls’ now.

JJ: I’d be remiss not to implicate The Artist’s Institute in relation to authorship. We too offer another layer of meaning, another ‘wallpaper’ underneath yours. How do you relate to the discussion that’s been taking place over the past five or six years on the network mentality in art; for example, in David Joselit’s After Art or Michael Sanchez’s recent writing for Artforum?

FB: Joselit writes about Ai Weiwei’s networked practice, which has incredible access to power. I am interested in a kind of “queering” of a social network, if you will, or in the threshold between a network and intimate connections, and the conditions that those different scales generate.

JJ: What does it mean to queer a network?

FB: Visibility is usually not a question in relation to social networks—it’s 100% visibility 24/7. Visibility is twofold: on the one hand, it is important to counter exclusion, but as you pointed out, it also builds value in a capitalist way. Here at The Artist’s Institute the networks, or rather the intimate connections, that these works point to operate through very different parameters, such as limited access to power and visibility by choice or exclusion. Working in these groups opened up all involved to transversal processes as a form of institutional therapy. CAGE was a semi-closed structure that allowed the creation of a very special space of experimentation.

JJ: Does that thinking about visibility have something to do with the period when you dropped out of the art world; or rather, when you redirected your energies towards other ways of being an artist? When did that happen?

FB: It started in 2011 and I’m not sure it’s over. Like you said, it was never about dropping out or a 100% withdrawal, it was rather a way to rethink my engagement.

JJ: Why did that feel important to do?

FB: It was necessary for me for a number of reasons. When I came home from the Venice Biennial in 2011, a lot of my ideas about art and politics had gotten debunked and I felt disillusioned. I was trying to buy a house so I would be able to stay in New York, and I had to teach in five, six schools to get the mortgage. I also stopped taking psychotropic medication, which reoriented my emotional and cognitive relationship to the world. Then Occupy happened, which presented me with new ways of building trust and engaging with people. For all these political, economical, emotional, and creative reasons, I decided to reevaluate my engagement with art and art production.

JJ: It seems like a great time to be working together, then. You’ve brought some former students here for workshops. Is teaching also part of this reengagement?

FB: Yes, absolutely! Pedagogy is of course about the terms on which we come together to learn and produce knowledge, but maybe we save that for another discussion.

List of Works

On View, Oct 9 – Nov 22, 2015

Fia Backström, lesser new york, 2005/2015, mixed media installation, dimensions variable. Work on view at MoMA/PS1, 22–25 Jackson Ave, Long Island City, NY.

Fia Backström, repurposed hanging structure from The Worker Through the Ages, 2010, wallpaper, stock image, and wooden shelves, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist. The artist has used this structure for hanging ephemera from selected art activities in New York over the past five years:

CAGE, Gold Bills, 2013, printed gold leaf in plastic sleeves, 12.75 × 10 inches. Courtesy of Andrew Roth, Fia Backström, Tina Zavitsanos. The gold bills are a series of prints on gold leaf of the bills for the infrastructure at CAGE, sold for the amount of the bill plus the cost of production. They were conceptualized and executed by the following individuals in conversation with the larger context of CAGE, an experimental space where a fluid group of people worked between 2010–2014, located at 83 Hester Street: Tom Ackers, Fia Backström, Cammisa Buerhaus, Oliver Cano, Christina Croll, Amalle Dublon, Alex Fleming, Melanie Gilligan, Jacob King, Kristin Malossi, Karin Schneider, Aliza Shvarts, Carlos Solis, Ian Szydlowski, Anthony Tran, Constantina Zavitsanos. “CAGE emerges from a desire to create and play a different game within the context of reality and art: to be an art gallery with(out) a gallerist, artworks with(out) artists, an ongoing group therapy with(out) a therapist. CAGE creates a community that is not a collective, but comprises singular and dissimilar voices from five generations that will: support individual production and sales; allow multiple subjectivities to independently co-exist; protect individuals’ ideas without using information as materiality for the production of novelty; and will rely not on the signature of an object but on the respect of the authorship of manifold ideas. The presentation of any production within CAGE seeks to follow a logic based not on the specular or on content providers, but on other forms of responsible engagement. The display of either virtual or real objects is not necessarily the final destination.” excerpted from www.cage83.com

Emma Hedditch & Elizabeth Orr, Double Sided, 2012, 24 × 36 inches, offset print, edition of 100.  Commissioned by @Workshop (Samara Davis & Alex Fleming). Courtesy of the artists.

RAC (Michael Appuhn, Gary Dusek, Jared Ellison, Karin Schneider, Ian Szydlowski, Kerim Zapsu, Louise Ward), Radio Al Cabira Group Print, 2014, 14 7/16 × 23 7/16 inches, etching on rag paper, edition of 20. Courtesy of the artists. Radio Al Cabira was formed in February 2012 at CAGE as a frame to disseminate ideas, political actions, sound collages, silence, meditation, readings, historical material, and anything else that we consider relevant to air—among friends. Since its initiation, Radio Al Cabira has been a fluid group with a long list of members who continue to contribute to its evolution and create broadcasts in New York and in different parts of the world.

On View, Sep 13 – Feb 7, 2016

Fia Backström, CO-, 2008, stainless steel, LED lights.

Fia Backström, Public Poem Pattern, 2015. Over the course of the next six months, Fia Backström will be inviting poets, artists, and writers to use the Artist’s Institute front gate as a platform for an evolving text changing every two weeks. At the end of the season, these text lines will be turned into a pattern on a table-cloth:

Malin Arnell, September 13–27
Tim Griffin, October 5–18
Emma Hedditch, October 19 – November 1
Doug Ashford, November 2–15

Reduce text

Part One, September 13 – October 4, 2015

There are over a thousand English language books titled or subtitled “the Art of Public Speaking.” The phrase is a cliché of rhetoric itself, of course, meant to dignify the deceit of public persuasion. But read another way, it is a wry invocation for Fia Backström’s staged environment and set of workshops, Studies in Leadership—the golden voice (2009), which twines oratory’s manipulation of semiotics and emotion with the aesthetic operations of poetry, bodywork, and graphic design. Documents from Eileen Myles’ run for President in 1992 are in the room too, as a kindred attempt to figure the relationship between art and public rhetoric. Their complex tone—both mordant and hopeful—like Backström’s, is neither neatly critical nor complicit. Outside on the front gate, Backström is creating a platform for an evolving public poem. First up, performance artist Malin Arnell.… Read more

There are over a thousand English language books titled or subtitled “the Art of Public Speaking.” The phrase is a cliché of rhetoric itself, of course, meant to dignify the deceit of public persuasion. But read another way, it is a wry invocation for Fia Backström’s staged environment and set of workshops, Studies in Leadership—the golden voice (2009), which twines oratory’s manipulation of semiotics and emotion with the aesthetic operations of poetry, bodywork, and graphic design. Documents from Eileen Myles’ run for President in 1992 are in the room too, as a kindred attempt to figure the relationship between art and public rhetoric. Their complex tone—both mordant and hopeful—like Backström’s, is neither neatly critical nor complicit. Outside on the front gate, Backström is creating a platform for an evolving public poem. First up, performance artist Malin Arnell.

Notes

The following are working notes generated out of The Artist’s Institute’s process of restaging Fia Backström’s “Studies in Leadership—the golden voice” (2009).

The golden voice is the second installment of the exhibition-cum-artwork-cum-seminar Studies in Leadership by Fia Backström. The project unfolded across four venues between 2009 and 2010: the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, ICA London, Frieze Art Fair, and Columbia University School of the Arts. Sandwiched between Barack Obama’s first inaugural address and Citizens United v. FEC, the work addressed the vicissitudes of democratic idealism at a time when the rhetoric of collectivity—a vocabulary long associated with Leftist politics and the Civil Rights movement—was increasingly being used to defend capitalist fantasies. Financial institutions were too big to fail, corporations were granted the right to free speech in the form of unlimited spending on political campaigns; and in burgeoning start-up culture, non-hierarchical structures, mandatory collaboration, and the “sharing economy” were championed as profit-generating “disruptions” to business as usual.

Three years earlier, in her iterative performance HERD INSTINCT 360º, Backström, questioned whether taking a critical position was possible in a world in which the market demanded so-called radical togetherness: “Communes of labor, brain-washed consumer combatants, cult action, group therapy, and corporate get-togethers, guerrilla marketers… how could one possibly get oneself killed for organized activity, when it all is taking place in a symbolic universe of style and value, I am dead therefore I am!”

But by 2009, Backström began to move away from the problem of how to take critical distance, and towards the question of how to operate productively in spite of the inevitability of recuperation from the “universe of style of value.” Studies in Leadership sought to carve out a space between clichéd criticality and corporate kitsch by recycling contemporary terms of collective engagement as novel forms of aesthetic production. It wondered if contemporary relationships between leadership and the people could be used not to symbolize hope in the form of democratic governance, nor to amass autocratic control for “soft” corporate leadership, but as a way to produce new kinds of aesthetic experiences.

For the first exhibition in the series, Studies in Leadership—a family affair, mounted at the St. Louis Contemporary Art Museum, Backström experimented with the techniques of the corporate “soft leader.” In the spoken word text for her installation Control Room (2009), she described this leader as one who “reacts with cozy, oppressive tactics of feigned tolerance, propagating sociability and amusement for a relativized and fragmented society… [to encourage the] free-flow consumption of situations and relations.” In a journal entry published to accompany the exhibition, Backström wondered, “what position of authority could one occupy as an artist?” She decided to take on a “soft” role, acting the part of an equivocating artist whose work was the outcome of a protracted installation process. The resulting exhibition showcased a series of unresolved decisions, ones involving paint color, pedestals, and projected images: a new kind of soft approach.

In the second part of the project, Studies in Leadership—the golden voice, Backström considered power in more visceral terms, particularly the ways in which rhetoric, image management, and affect manipulation produce leaders and their herds. While Backström interrogated her own position as artist in a family affair, in the golden voice she looked to contemporary political and corporate orators, using Steve Jobs, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama as case studies.

In 2009, Studies in Leadership—the golden voice took the form of an installation and series of workshops at the ICA London as part of the Talk Show exhibition. It featured a stage set with a cardboard lectern, prop walls, seating, looping video and books. Four events were held in the space: A workshop with a speech coach, another with a voice actress, an informal conversation with a political theorist, and finally a film screening hosted by artist Emily Wardill. The set also featured vertical banners similar to ones you might see at a conference trade-show.  Backström’s banners weren’t advertising anything, but they did appropriate language from corporate self-help books: “Speak with your whole body.” “Adjust the room… the microphone, the temperature, the sound system all make a statement.” By including them, Backström was honing in on what their authors, experts in human persuasion, know to be true—that communication frequently has little to do with semantics or what is actually being said. It is often about what Felix Guattari calls “a-signifying semiotics,” phenomena that organize social relations but are not primarily about meaning: the body’s nervous system reacting during a speech; the way a speech is distributed; the tonality of a speaker’s voice. All these machinic pre-symbolic assemblages, Guattari explains, “bring into play signs which have an additional symbolic or signifying effect, but whose actual functioning is neither symbolic nor signifying.”

In the videos that accompany the golden voice, Backstrom takes television footage from well-known corporate and political speeches—Barack Obama’s “A More Perfect Union,” Steve Jobs’ iPhone launch—and processes them through the post-production software AfterEffects to distort their images and sound. Speakers’ voices are slowed down almost to the point of receptive aphasia; the videos become grainy and purple-hued. A layer of floating text also runs across the images. Vocal transcripts that would usually follow a tidy path across the bottom of the screen now move in all directions and at unpredictable intervals in a typeface that stretches and compresses seemingly at random. At first Backström’s interventions appear to be designed to distance the viewer from immersion in the screen, yet at second glance her treatment doesn’t actually reveal the fictive qualities of the televisual rhetoric. Rather, the aural and pictorial tweaks to the videos actually amplify their a-significatory dimension, and the affective and machinic networks of communication they participate in. This occurs in much the same way that Maurizio Lazzarato describes Guattari’s a-signification: “capturing and activating pre-subjective and pre-individual elements (affects, emotions, perceptions) to make them function like components or cogs in the semiotic machine of capital.” By tuning us in to the waves, flows, and distortions of politicians’ voices and their teleprompter texts, Backström make us aware of the very materiality of all of it.

The speeches’ hollow rhetoric about togetherness gains a newfound density through this a-significatory manipulation. The work in Studies in Leadership begins from the position that the semantic content of such political and corporate messages is depraved, bereft of the significance it claims to have purchase on—the urgency of collectivity. In moving towards the a-significatory richnnes of these speeches, however, Backström bypasses criticism in favor of aesthetic production. This turn towards productive capacity via the materiality of rhetoric is implicit in Guattari’s formulation of a-signification, and more broadly motivates his project, with Deleuze, to define the generative force of desiring-machines against theories that presuppose a fundamental emptiness at the core of experience. Backström’s works rally against critique in an era in which pessimism seems pointless; after an unprecedented decade of abuse in political and corporate spheres alike, a term like collectivity may no longer mean anything. Rather than signaling an end, however, this reduction to nonsense could mark a generative new starting point.

The Artist’s Institute staff

List of Works

Fia Backström, Studies in Leadership—the golden voice, 2009, cardboard seating, lectern, and table; paper banners, eight video installation, four events.

Within her installation, Studies in Leadership—the golden voice, Fia Backström will organize a series of informal workshops and discussions expanding on the themes of her installation. There will be no set schedule for this program of events, and all visitors are encouraged to participate or watch as space permits.

The Golden Voice
A speech therapist and vocal coach will work to explore what makes a “golden voice” through the sounding of the vocal chords and the expression of the articulators and muscles in the mouth.

Nicholas & Hillary
Artist Elizabeth Orr will screen her short experimental film Nicholas and Hillary (2014) about “neoliberal superpowers” Nicholas Negroponte and Hillary Clinton. Through gender- and race-bending performances, the characters elaborate on the early development of the Internet, their private lives, and anti-Cartesian philosophy. With Jane Levy, Mariana Valencia, and Zoë Wright.

Voice-Mind-Bodywork
Ann Rodiger, Alexander Technique instructor and founder and director of the Balance Arts Center, will guide a workshop on presence, movement, and public performance that emphasizes the connection between body, mind, and voice.

Media and Cognition
Philosopher Matteo Pasquinelli works at the intersection of political philosophy, media theory, and cognitive sciences and will come to the Institute for an informal discussion about the themes of the work on view.

Eileen Myles, Presidential campaign ephemera, 1991.
In the Spring of 1991, poet and writer Eileen Myles announced her campaign for President of the United States. The letters, speeches, and buttons displayed here are what she sent her mailing list of campaign supporters.

Fia Backström, CO-, 2008, Aluminum and LED lights, 40 × 2 × 24 inches.

Fia Backström, Public Poem Pattern, 2015–2016, vinyl lettering, dimensions variable
Over the course of the next six months, Fia Backström will be inviting poets, artists, and writers to use The Artist’s Institute front gate as a platform for an evolving text. The text will change every two weeks, and at the end of the season, the compiled lines will be turned into a pattern on a tablecloth:

Malin Arnell, September 13–27, 2015
Tim Griffin, September 28 – October 11, 2015

Reduce text

Events

February 5, 7pm,

Another Thought: Lecture by Dr. Leah Kelly.
Dr. Leah Kelly, a neuroscientist at The Rockefeller University, discusses how various traits long held to belong to the “mind,” such as memory, learning, and decision-making can be found outside their traditional seats in the brain and nervous system. In overviewing some of the perceptive and affective faculties that lay farther afield in our bodies, Dr. Kelly will raise questions about the limits of current models for cognition and behavior, critiquing standardized experimental paradigms used in neurological research through the lens of mental health.

January 26, 7pm,

Fia Backström’s The Growth and Its Perennials Lecture Performance.
Like an aqueduct system that divvies a river into faucets, technology pours the macro forces of the world—markets, climate, disease—into our bodies through millions of smaller conduits: smartphones, psycho-pharmaceuticals, radiation, etc. In the U.S. premiere of her lecture performance The Growth and Its Perennials (2014) Fia Backström uses intimate images and impressions drawn from these systems to bridge the minutiae of feeling and its global-scale epiphenomena. Though it borrows something from the lecture format, Backström’s performance is not just a presentation on an ecology of forces micro and macro, but also an experiment in their induction: the public communication, like current through wires, of sensations from one to many. This event will be held at 205 Hudson Street, Hunter Studios Auditorium, 2nd floor.

December 13, 6pm–9pm,

St. Lucy Day Celebration.
The Öyvind Fahlström festival will conclude with an evening celebration of the Swedish winter solstice holiday, St. Lucy’s Day, with traditional food and refreshments.

December 13, 2.30pm–6pm,

Fahlström Festival.
Artist Öyvind Fahlström (1928–1976) began as a poet and while he moved through a range of other media, including prints, paintings, film, and sound, he always remained grounded in his belief that common language was rich with associative material; that the letters, sounds, and shapes of words that had been deemed too coarse for art were pieces to be endlessly re-arranged into new compositions. In his 1953 manifesto he called them missgynnade ord, “disadvantaged” words that could come from a mechanic’s manual or shopkeeper’s sign. Fahlström made the concrete capacities of the missgynnade explicitly political in later works that adapted the mass-forms of comics and board games into variable structures that drew connections, satirical and sober, across the ranks of society.

Talks about Fahlström’s work and legacy will be presented along with live readings of his poetry, listening sessions of his works on tape, and the exhibition of never before seen preparatory drawings for his ambitious painting Ade-Ledic-Nander. Participants include Antonio Sergio Bessa, Director of Curatorial and Education Programs at the Bronx Museum of the Arts and the author of Öyvind Fahlström: The Art of Writing and Fahlström scholar Maibritt Borgen.

A full schedule of events will be announced in early December. Co-organized by Antonio Sergio Bessa and Maibritt Borgen.

December 12, 4pm,

Cecilia Grönberg and Jonas (J) Magnusson on OEI.
OEI magazine was founded in 1999 and has published 70 issues. Beautifully designed and thoroughly researched, the magazine is dedicated to extra-disciplinary spaces and de-disciplinizing moments—experimental forms of thinking, montages between poetry, art, philosophy, film, and documents; editorial enunciations, aesthetic technologies, and alternative historiographies. OEI editör was initiated in 2002 and has published some 80 books of investigative poetry, aesthetic documents, artist’s books, theoretical and poetological texts. In 2012, OEI opened the micro-gallery OEI Colour Project. Join OEI editors Cecilia Grönberg and Jonas (J) Magnusson for a presentation on their work in the temporary library.

December 11–12,

Concrete library.
The Stockholm-based publishing platform OEI and artist Fia Backström present a pop-up library of OEI publications and other printed matter related to avant-garde Swedish poetry of the 1960s and 70s. The library’s lenders will be on-site Saturday afternoon to share selections from their collections.

December 11, 7pm,

Sound Poetry with James Hoff and C. Spencer Yeh.
C. Spencer Yeh presents a performative elaboration on SOLO VOICE I-X, a collection of voice-based recordings published by Primary Information.  Recognizing a faithful recital as being physically impossible, the concept of “playing a record in its entirety” is instead used as a springboard for a new composition working within and literally on top of the original pieces.

Additionally, James Hoff will play a selection of audio works relating to the Swedish Sound Poetry movement in the 1960s.

November 14, 7pm,

Fia Backström on Terms of Engagement.
Reflecting on both her artwork and her decisions on how to work, Backström describes her shifting terms of engagement with her peers, art institutions, and pedagogy. Projects past and present will find their context in experience as well as ideas. How is value to be realized in these systems and by whom? What are the realities of exchange between practical and conceptual choices?

October 25, 7pm,

Screening with François Pain.
Filmmaker François Pain shares several of his previously untranslated films regarding alternative psychiatry and labor. Pain’s affiliation with alternative psychiatry stems from his time spent at the La Borde clinic in the 60s and 70s, alongside Jean Oury and Félix Guattari, where the principles of psychiatric care were transformed through new models for collaboration: patients and caregivers shared equally in the clinic’s administration and joined together in recreation and art-making. For those at La Borde, the institution, as well as the broader conditions of work, remain as much the subjects of therapy as the “boarders.” These rarely screened works include interviews with Guattari, documentation of a Butoh dance performance at La Borde, and montages of found and original footage scored to music by the composer Marc Mellits. The screening will be followed by a discussion with the filmmaker.

October 3, 8pm–11pm,

Launch of Today we should be thinking about.
On the fifth anniversary of The Artist’s Institute, former Director and Founder Anthony Huberman returns to launch his book Today we should be thinking about., covering our first three years. Music by David Grubbs.

September 16, 7pm,

Republican Presidential Debate Watch Party.
Poets Robert Fitterman, Josef Kaplan, Monica McClure, and Mónica de la Torre will join the Republican presidential candidates in a live debate moderated by CNN’s Jake Tapper.

Recordings

“Another Thought,” February 5, 7pm with Dr. Leah Kelly