Emma Bäcklund


Emma Bäcklund is a Swedish artist whose practice includes photography, performance and installation. Bäcklund draws from her background in dance and interest in neuroscience to make work that is deeply influenced by both cognitive and physical experiences. Bäcklund’s research involves everyday bodily gestures, physical labour, and philosophical theory behind image-culture. Recent works explore attempts to create situations of intimacy when social distance is everyday life. She is interested in how the still image can explore movement by situating the body in a sphere of fictive construction and turning it into an “image-body”.

Bäcklund received her MA in Photography from the Royal College of Art, London, in 2017. Previous education includes a BA in Photography from London College of Communication (2015) and a Foundation Diploma in Graphic Design from Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design (2012), as well as an Art and Design Diploma from Stockholm University of Arts, Stockholm, Sweden (2010). She is an organiser of the Berlin based organisation Artists and Allies Berlin and co-founder of Chapters.

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To Place with Care

To Place with Care explores habitual movement, dependency and support structures while questioning the female role as the care-provider. The work developed from re-staging 1950s and 60s vintage photographs and instruction manuals of nurses practicing how to lift a patient, imagining a weight that is not yet there. The training of this activity required preparative, repetitive gestures in absence of the patient which initiate a choreography of habit and muscle memory. The artist is interested in the idea of physical rehearsal and how the fictive, performative nature of the photograph. A banality emerges from the empty gestures, and the focus shift on the supporting rather than the supported body.


Nymph Clasping Ankle

Nymph Clasping Ankle consists of appropriated archival images and titles for image categorisations from Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas and Warburg Institute's online photographic library, exploring iconology and the ‘performative body’ through gesture, mimicry, repetition and language. Carefully-placed magnifying glasses isolate and enlarge certain parts of images (for instance a hand or knee). The action of combining these elements thus becomes the work.

The performative body, habit and repetition of gesture are some of the core interests in my own practice and relate very much to my interest in dance. For me, choreography and photography are hands in hand. In my research into Aby Warburg’s image atlas, I have been considering the Nymph's metamorphic quality, as the Nymph is both a cause and the object of transformation. For me, this symbolises how I want to treat the image: as a flexuous thing that is not confined to a static or flat space. I have also considered the mimicry of the human body and how gestures travel, even before the event of the photograph and rise of the image culture.