PRINT November 2006


Fia Backström

Fia Backström 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.

  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 (à 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.

    *Sister Corita Kent, _things go better with_, 1967,* silk screen on paper, 23 x 35". © Corita Art Center, Immaculate Heart Community. Sister Corita Kent, things go better with, 1967, silk screen on paper, 23 x 35". © Corita Art Center, Immaculate Heart Community.
  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.

    *Front page of Julieta Aranda and Anton Vidokle’s _Popular Geometry_, “Mexico City Edition” (2004).* Front page of Julieta Aranda and Anton Vidokle’s Popular Geometry, “Mexico City Edition” (2004).
  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. A good start for the corporation-as-artist, shifting territory of activity around for all.

  6. A PUTATIVE RED BRIGADES member wrote, under the pen name “Giorgio,” Memoirs of an Italian Terrorist, a book that removes a lot of the mystique and glamour surrounding his profession by recounting the daily chores of a serious terrorist. The sadness of a lost social life, the endless monotonous research and detailed preparations, and the vacuous feeling produced when one’s cause feeds into the hands of an adversary are conveyed in a brutally honest voice that hides identity behind a mask of words.

  7. THE ROTUND WHITE Moomintrolls in Tove Jansson’s children’s story The Book About Moomin, Mymble and Little My inhabit one of the most melancholic worlds in literature. Richly saturated drawings, handwritten text, and die-cut pages all contribute to the exhilaratingly psychedelic quest to recover Little My, a creature who is not all that cute, nor particularly sweet. The lonely, wild characters comprise an anarchic society in all its complexity.

    *Illustration from Tove Jansson’s _Hur gick det sen? Boken om Mymlan, Mumintrollet och Lilla My_ (Then What Happened? The Book About Moomin, Mymble and Little My) (1952).* Illustration from Tove Jansson’s Hur gick det sen? Boken om Mymlan, Mumintrollet och Lilla My (Then What Happened? The Book About Moomin, Mymble and Little My) (1952).
  8. THE GREENHOUSE EFFECT is in its advanced stages in the 1973 sci-fi movie Soylent Green. Set in 2022, the film features a detective who sweats his way profusely through his investigation of Soylent, the government-rationed food substance used to feed the ever-growing population. Scenes of mass protests with civilians in Prada-like uniforms and of euthanasia clinics that show stock footage of the long-forgotten natural world to clients on their deathbeds lend to the film’s morbidly efficient, corporate interpretation of recycling.

    *Richard Fleischer, _Soylent Green_, 1973,* still from a color film in 35 mm, 97 minutes. Detective Robert Thorn (Charlton Heston). Richard Fleischer, Soylent Green, 1973, still from a color film in 35 mm, 97 minutes. Detective Robert Thorn (Charlton Heston).
  9. THE TRUE COLORS of Microsoft are shown in Bill Gates’s autobiography, The Road Ahead. Gates’s software empire began, in part, with insights he made while observing the battle between Beta and VHS formats—best quality lost to best business strategy. He went on to appropriate Apple’s use of windows for its operating system, creating his own version: Windows. Gates focused on manipulating the digital interfaces in all our faces, recognizing that formats—Coca-Cola red, screen ratio, letter size—shape our use of the world and are never a given.

  10. KODAK YELLOW appeared in many of the gorgeous dye-transfer prints in Christopher Williams’s show at David Zwirner Gallery in New York last spring. Repeated visual elements and mug shots of outdated products, like an Eastern European version of a Hasselblad, the first camera on the moon, inspired semantic slippages that worked the minds of meaning-hungry viewers. For this exhibition, the Hasselblad’s signature square format was realized only when one of Williams’s rectangular images was cropped for an ad in this square magazine—Artforum.

    *Advertisement for Christopher Williams’s exhibition “For Example: _Dix-Huit Leçons Sur La Société Industrielle_ (Revision 4)” at David Zwirner Gallery, _Artforum_ (January 2006).* Advertisement for Christopher Williams’s exhibition “For Example: Dix-Huit Leçons Sur La Société Industrielle (Revision 4)” at David Zwirner Gallery, Artforum (January 2006).