Miriam Bäckström. The Opposite of Me Is I

4 February – 25 March 2012

Miriam Bäckström (born 1967 in Stockholm) emerged as an artist in the late 1990s. The conceptual and visual precision of her photographic work soon gained wide international recognition, not least after Harald Szeemann included it in the Venice Biennale in 1999. She used the established approaches of documentary photography to expose and undo conventions of depiction and storytelling. Film sets, museum displays and apartments became “figures” speaking of the “diverse characters” that were as yet physically absent in the images.

This interest—in characters and roles, figures and representations, space and how we experience it—has been central to Bäckström’s art from the very beginning. It was also clearly manifested in her collaborations with the artist colleague Carsten Höller, notably Amplified Pavilion for the Nordic Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2005.

Lunds konsthall is proud to present the first survey of Miriam Bäckström’s art. The Opposite of Me Is I traces her consistent concerns, but also—and this is crucial to the selection of works—her constant challenging of her own achievements, from the early photographic series Estate of a Deceased Person (1992–1996) until the tapestry (2011) with the same title as the exhibition.

During the last ten years Bäckström has worked in a variety of artistic media: photography, film, installation, objects, performance and, increasingly, text. Her interest in the theatrical has gradually become explicitly visible. Collaborations with prominent Swedish actors have been an important inspiration and method, and she is currently preparing a stage production for the Royal Dramatic Theater in Stockholm.

The exhibition at Lunds konsthall focuses on Bäckström’s more recent production. Apart from a selection of images from Estate… it contains only two earlier photographic works, the rarely shown pieces 29 Variations of Light and Locations. Tenerife (both 2002). Other photographic works in the exhibition are: the double-sided posters of Rebecka as Anonymous (2004); Irène Lindh (2008) with its 8 portraits of an actress taken at exactly the same moment; Negatives (2010–2011), where negative and positive areas of the image are juxtaposed to enhance each other and, not least, the circular photographs mounted on circular sheets of clear or tinted mirror glass for the ongoing series Mirrors (2005–).

Bäckström produced her first film, Rebecka, in 2004. The script is based on interviews with the actress Rebecka Hemse, the artist’s own experiences and texts from her book Anonymous Interviews (2004). Other films in the exhibition are Kira Carpelan (2007), a documentation of a year-long collaboration with a younger artist, and Who Am I? (2011), based on a live performance of a script in English by German actors in Cologne.

The Opposite of Me Is I is the title of a large (2.90 x 10 meters) tapestry based on photographic images of the actor Börje Ahlstedt as Pierrot, in a costume reconstructed from Antoine Watteau’s painting Gilles (1718–1720). This costume is also exhibited, along with a bear costume in mink fur made for an as yet not fully determined character. Attractions (2010) is a reconfigured shop vitrine with red glass, variously colored mirrors, neon light and a selection of enigmatic objects – at the same time art object and theatrical prop.

In a conversation with Anders Kreuger for the exhibition catalogue, Miriam Bäckström says:

“Combining an image with a mirror-image is a simple form of the double. In Negatives I allow positive and negative motifs to blend in the same image. The Opposite of Me Is I refers to two versions of the same character that can be defined as opposites.”

Curator: Anders Kreuger