Emma Bäcklund


Emma Bäcklund (b. 1985) is a Swedish artist based in Berlin. Working between photography and performance, she investigates in the possibilities and boundaries of the physical as well as the photographic body. Dance, neuroscience and the image culture are fundamental aspects in her research process.

She received her MA Photography at Royal College of Art, London, 2017. Her previous education includes BA in Photography at London College of Communication with a first-class honours in 2015, Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, Foundation Diploma in Graphic Design, London UK and Stockholm University of Arts, Art and Design diploma, Stockholm, Sweden. Emma received Helge Ax:son Johnsons scholarship 2019 and was Longlisted for Berlin Art Prize 2018. This year she was invited to as a guest lecturer at London College of Communication for BA Photography, University of Art and Design, London, and at Swansea College of Art, BA Photography, Swansea, UK.

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To Place with Care

This ongoing work investigates the habitual movement and regard the body as a support structure. To Place with Care are re-staged photographs of various vintage footage from the 50s and 60s of nurses practising how to lift a patient, imagining a weight that is not yet there. I am interested in the idea of bodily rehearsing for a ‘real’ situation. The training of this activity required preparative, repetitive gestures in absence of the patient which visually starts to become a choreography of habit and muscle memory and the focus is not on the body being supported but on the supporting bodies.


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.