Freja Bäckman: I was told I chop wood like a ballet dancer

Hordaland kunstsenter 21.09.2018 30.09.2018


Freja Bäckman’s project I was told I chop wood like a ballet dancer is now on view as a sound and video installation at Hordaland Art Centre, a project that in April appeared as a concert in the forms of a performance and an installation at District Berlin. Bäckman was artist in residency at USF Verftet in Bergen during the spring of 2018, and was working on this project during her stay. BEK has been supporting the development of the project with counseling and technical equipment.

They call it work. They find a common rhythm. They work (it) out. They take time to do this. They wonder if it is pr-oduction. They know the rules. They say it’s violent. They find them selves in stagnation. They a- scape. They are not revealing what is invisible. They know their abilities. They call it a repetitive motion. They make the rules. They say it does matter what stories they tell.

IwtIcwlabd is a body of work that has grown as a collective effort. Following the origin of the word concert – to contest, question, dispute (with) as well as agreement in action. IwtIcwlabd has been shaped by public workshops and through improvisation sessions with a group of bass players and the performers chopping wood. Based on these shared moments, the exercise in writing the score for the performance has been a reflection on how we never work alone, on the stories and friendships we draw upon and on the worlds we co-inhabit. Approaching wood chopping – and the acts of violence and resistance therein – through notions of vulnerability, pleasure and repulsion, that reoccurs through the reverberating sound installation.

The materials in the space would usually be found where plants are cultivated; plant lights, shadow nets and pond liner, all layers of protection. The sculptural figures melt into the surroundings. The costumes camouflage, but only in this specific environment, elsewhere they would raise attention. The attire could be suggesting some kind of other reality, or at least the possibility of its being. A voice wanders, never reveals them, being one and many simultaneously.

Elis Hannikainen moves through their videography between the materials in the installation and the performers in a rehearsed choreography, thus having an inconspicuous presence in the space. Manuela Schininá has created the sound design for the installation specifically for this setting, based on live recordings done at District Berlin earlier this year, where a concert (performance / installation) also took place.

IwtIcwlabd is a series that Bäckman has been working with since 2015 and which has taken different shapes, from collective wood chopping actions and one on one sessions to a concert, as a performance/installation.

IwtIcwlabd is a co-production with District Berlin as part of a IwtIcwlabd series curated by Suza Husse at District Berlin.

Sound recording, design and mixing: Manuela Schininá
Videography: Elis Hannikainen
Voice: Elena Schmidt
On bass: Cash Hauke, Freja Bäckman, Mitchelle Betancourt, Verónica Mota, Wassan Ali
Chopping wood: Hanna Maria Bergfors, Henna Räsänen, Winnie Olbrich
Costumes: Corinna Helenelund, Liisa Pesonen
Sound (performance): Lola Tseytlin / Sound Systers
Lights Support: Wassan Ali
Location: District Berlin

Supported by
Kone Foundation, Svenska kulturfonden, Arts Promotion Centre Finland, Faculty of Fine Art, Music and Design, UiB and Wrap.

Freja Bäckman

works as an artist, educator and researcher, intertwined by questions of collective formations, through workshops, text, performative, installation and sound based work informed by intersectional feminist methods and structures. Recent projects include I was told I chop wood like a ballet dancer (2015- ongoing), No play Feminist Training Camp (2016), The Bright Lights of the Institution (2016/18), and the Partisan Café at Bergen Assembly (2016). Currently doing a doctorate at Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture in Helsinki. Plays bass in the doom metal band Lithalsa. Freja was at AiR Bergen at USF Verftet January-March 2018.

Freja Bäckman
Hordaland Art Centre