Ms Robyn Backen

BVA (SCA) MA (UNSW)
Coordinator, Master of Studio Art

N01P - Sydney College Of The Arts - Rozelle - (Kirkbride)
The University of Sydney

Telephone +61 2 9351 1006

Website Robyn Backen

Biographical details

Robyn Backen is an artist whose work makes connections between art, science and philosophy. Her installations actively engage with the spaces they inhabit, whether gallery, landscape or building: the site provides the structural and associative framework for both formal and conceptual elements.

Backen was educated at SCA where she developed a deep interest in object construction - both physical and ephemeral; studying in jewellery, sculpture and performance. This was followed by post graduate studies at Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam and with Edvardo Paolozzi at the Internationale Sommeracademie, Salzburg.

Over ten years ago, Backen completed her masters in History and Art Theory. This thesis lay the groundwork for her ongoing research.The master paper examined: The distinction and intersection betweenanalogue, and digital communication systems in contemporary art.

Backen has shown in many national and international exhibitions including Australian Perspecta (1991 and 1997), Spirit and Place Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (1996), Flow National Gallery, Kuala Lumpur (2000), Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial, Japan (2003), Imagining Prometheus, Milan, Italy (2003) and Whispering Trees De Overkant, Den Haag Sculpur, Holland (2007),Exposure, Rejmyre, Sweden (2011), Sookmyung Women’s University Gallery, South Korea (2011), Daya / Kindness: Australia-India a cultural exchange, Habitat Centre, New Delhi, RMIT Gallery, Melbourne (2012). Most recently she was commission to create a solo installation for Incinerator Art Space, Willoughby Biennial, Sydney— If you do not speak, do I speak for you? (2015).

Backen has completed many large public commissioned artworks such as Weeping Walls(2001) at Sydney International Airport and Delicate Balance,at Ballast Point Park for the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority 2009 and Night Watch for Brisbane CBD2013. She was one of the four commissioned artists to develop a site specific artwork forSiteworks - a series of interactive projects focused on the unique Bundanon properties. Backen is one of the five international artists invited to collaborate and develop the touring artwork Nomanslanding, Sydney, Germany and Scotland (2015-17).

Robyn Backen,Backspace: the art of communication: works from 1990-2010 by Dr Susan Best published in 2011, examines two decades of installation work by Robyn Backen.

Research interests

Backen's teaching draws upon more than 20 years of research into technology and materials. She investigates patterns of language and rhythms of nature to build works which engage with physical space. She has examined the phenomena of change in society and created artworks that often engage with the languages of communication.

Robyn Backen’s research and creative works over the past two decades have evolved from a deep intrigue into communication and telephonic systems. These systems become the subjects of her work, like those of language and remembering—often invite audience engagement.

Backen’s work is not bound by medium or scale, with large public commissions contrasting against smaller sound and light works. Conceptual continuity, however, is the constant, allowing Backen to translate ideas and messages into an eclectically bound body of work, multi-faceted conversation which are often context-responsive.

Her sound, lightworks, constructions and computer-generated systems often examine the cultural context of a site whether that be a concern for the post-industrial or simply the discovery of socially historical knowledge.Her projects are context responsive engaging with the site to provided the structural and associative framework for both formal and conceptual elements.

Backen has a poetic approach that includes topics such as randomness and pattern, body and language, boarders and connections, distance and proximity. She investigate patterns of language and rhythms of nature to build works which engage with physical space. Recently with the support of the Australia Council Fellowship funded the research she made a world tour researching acoustics of ancient whispering architecture and their unique communication patterns of sending and receiving.This research continues to resonate in her current projects.

Awards and honours

2011 Australia Council for the Arts: Fellowship 2012-14
2008 Australia Council for the Arts: New Work
2001 National Association of Women in Construction – Acoustic Logic Consultancy, Award for Achievement in Art in the Built Environment
2001 COFA, UNSW: Research Development,
1998 Asia Link Residency, Delhi
1997 Australia Council for the Arts: New Work
1994 Australia Council for the Arts: Professional Development
1985 Australia Council for the Arts: Project
1982 Scholarship Award Salzburg Sommeracademie
1981 Australia Council for the Arts: Overseas Study

Selected publications & creative works

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Conferences

  • Ely, D., Warner, G., Dement, L., Helyer, N., Backen, R., Paine, G., Newcombe, J., Starrs, J., Cmielewski, L. (2013). Siteworks: Ecologies and Technologies. 19th International Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA 2013), Sydney: ISEA International, the Australian Network for Art & Technology, and the University of Sydney.

Visual Art

  • Dekker, A., Turpin, J., Helyer, N., Eatough, G., Backen, R. (2016). Nomanslanding. In: Nomanslanding. Glasgow Life / Merchant City Festival. In situ, The River Clyde, Glasgow, United Kingdom.
  • Backen, R. (2015). If you do not speak, do I speak for you?. In: If you do not speak, do I speak for you? Willoughby City Council. Incinerator Art Space, Sydney, Australia.
  • Backen, R. (2015). Incidental Mur-murings. In: Cementa15: Contemporary Arts Festival. Cementa. Kandos Projects, Kandos, Australia.
  • Dekker, A., Turpin, J., Helyer, N., Eatough, G., Backen, R. (2015). Nomanslanding. In: Nomanslanding. Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority. In situ, Darling Harbour Sydney, Sydney, Australia.
  • Dekker, A., Turpin, J., Helyer, N., Eatough, G., Backen, R. (2015). Nomanslanding. In: Nomanslanding. Urbane Künste Ruhr/Ruhrtriennale. The Eisenbahnhafen, Duisburg Ruhrort, Germany.
  • Backen, R. (2014). Emptiness. In: Visual Arts Fellowships: Robyn Backen, Lindy Lee, Hilarie Mais. Australia Council for the Arts. The Australia Council for the Arts (window facade and foyer), Sydney, Australia.
  • Backen, R. (2013). Bricked. In: Camouflage Cultures: surveillance, communities, aesthetics and animals. Sydney College of the Arts, the University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia.
  • Backen, R. (2013). It's me.. I'm here.. Where're you?. In: Tele Visions. Carriageworks, Sydney, Australia.
  • Backen, R. (2013). Night Watch. In: Night Watch. Grocon. (Permanent installation) 55 Elizabeth Street Brisbane, Brisbane, Australia.
  • Backen, R. (2012). An Eye for an Eye. In: Daya/Kindness: Australia - India. India Habitat Centre and RMIT Gallery. Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, India.
  • Backen, R. (2012). Can You Hear Me?. In: TarraWarra Biennial 2012: Sonic Spheres. TarraWarra Museum of Art, Healesville, Victoria, Australia.
  • Backen, R. (2012). Whisper Pitch. In: Dimension Crossing. Performance Space. Carriageworks, Sydney, Australia.
  • Backen, R. (2011). Exposure. In: Works in Context. Rejymre Art LAB. Rejmyre | Art LAB, Rejmyre, Sweden.
  • Backen, R. (2010). End of the line. In: The Ghost Show. Hazelhurst Regional Gallery & Arts Centre, sydney, Australia.
  • Backen, R. (2010). Robyn Backen. In: Connecting you | Robyn Backen. Canberra Contemporary Art Space Gorman House, Canberra, Australia.
  • Backen, R. (2009). A very enchanting thing 2007-2009. In: Mirror Mirror: then and now. Intitute of Modern Art. Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia.
  • Backen, R. (2009). Mangrove. In: City One Minute. The One Minutes Foundation and Holland Doc 24. City One Minutes URL and digital TV channel Holland DOC/VPRO, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
  • Backen, R. (2009). Walls that Whisper. In: Walls that Whisper. Museum of Australian Democracy. Old Parliament House, Canberra, Australia.
  • Backen, R. (2007). 1. ATROPHY, 2006. In: Science as Art. Garvan Institute. Garvan Institute, Darlinghurst, Sydney, Australia.
  • Backen, R. (2007). 1. It's me 2. A Very Enchanting Thing. In: It's me… I'm here… where're you? Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Australia.
  • Backen, R. (2007). Whispering Trees. In: The 10th Haag Sculpture exhibition 'De Overkant/Down Under'. The Haag Sculpture. The Haag centre, The Haag, Netherlands.
  • Backen, R. (2006). A Very Enchanting Thing. In: Yours, Mine and Ours: 50 Years of ABC TV. ABC, Campbelltown Art Centre, Penrith Regional Gallery, The Lewers Bequest and Arts NSW. Campbelltown Art Centre, Penrith Regional Gallery, Campbelltown, Australia.
  • Backen, R., Hayes, T., Barnett, H. (2006). Break in Play. In: Break in Play. Chrissie Cotter Gallery, Sydney, Australia.
  • Backen, R. (2005). Gesumptkunst. In: d. Afghanistan.
  • Backen, R., Tonkin, M. (2005). Vinculum. In: Vinculum. Artspace, Sydney, Australia.
  • Backen, R. (2004). ALSO. In: Conversion: art in public sites in Goulburn. Goulburn Regional Art Gallery. Goulburn Cemetery, Goulburn, Australia.
  • Backen, R. (2003). Eternal Silence. In: Imagining Prometheus. Palazzo della Ragione, Milan. Palazzo della Ragione, Milan, Italy.
  • Backen, R. (2003). Rice Talk. In: Rice Talk. Echigo-Tsumari Triennial 2003. Uwayu, Matsunoyama, Japan.
  • Backen, R. (2002). SSO Calling all …this is our last cry before our eternal silence. In: The First 20 Years. Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Paddington, NSW, Australia.
  • Backen, R., Attenbrow, V., Carson-Ewarthe, B. (2001). 1. Drop 2. X-ray wall 3. Sydney Waters Map 4. Projection 5. Underwater Soundscape 6. 5 Periscopes. In: Catching…the harbour. The Australian Museum, Sydney, Australia.

Design or Architectural Works

  • Backen, R. (2010). Sylvan - Moreshead Drive Roadside Commission Canberra. Australia: Unrealized.
  • Backen, R. (2009). Delicate Balance. Ballast Point, Birchgrove, Australia: Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority. Public.
  • Backen, R. (2006). Crowning Light. Canberra Museum and Gallery foyer, Australia: Canberra Museum and Gallery. Public Art Commission.
  • Backen, R. (2006). Filtering Perception. 128 Charlotte street, Brisbane, Australia: Devine Limited, Brisbane City Council.
  • Backen, R. (2006). Sounding Towers. Queensland Art Gallery, Australia: Queensland Art Gallery. Public Art Commission.
  • Backen, R. (2004). Droplet. The Bond, 30 Hickson Road, Sydney, Australia: Lend Lease. Commercial.
  • Backen, R. (2003). Lux. St Canisis, Kings Cross, Australia: Public Art Commission.
  • Backen, R. (2002). The Building that Speaks. Brisbane Powerhouse Arts, Australia: Brisbane City Council. Public Art Commission.
  • Backen, R. (2001). Banner Project. UNSPECIFIED: Public Art Commission.

Live Performance - Interarts

  • Backen, R., Dalziel, A., Hobbs, I., Mackenzie, N., Xen, M., Zinn, C. (2012). Last Word 2012. Siteworks 2012: Future Food Feast. Bundanon, Bundanon, Shoalhaven, Australia: Bundanon Trust.
  • Backen, R. (2011). Last word 2011. Siteworks 2011. Bundanon Residency, Bundanon, NSW, Australia: Bundanon Trust.
  • Backen, R. (2010). Last word. Siteworks. Bundanon Residency, Shoalhaven, Australia, Australia: Bundanon Trust.

2016

  • Dekker, A., Turpin, J., Helyer, N., Eatough, G., Backen, R. (2016). Nomanslanding. In: Nomanslanding. Glasgow Life / Merchant City Festival. In situ, The River Clyde, Glasgow, United Kingdom.

2015

  • Backen, R. (2015). If you do not speak, do I speak for you?. In: If you do not speak, do I speak for you? Willoughby City Council. Incinerator Art Space, Sydney, Australia.
  • Backen, R. (2015). Incidental Mur-murings. In: Cementa15: Contemporary Arts Festival. Cementa. Kandos Projects, Kandos, Australia.
  • Dekker, A., Turpin, J., Helyer, N., Eatough, G., Backen, R. (2015). Nomanslanding. In: Nomanslanding. Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority. In situ, Darling Harbour Sydney, Sydney, Australia.
  • Dekker, A., Turpin, J., Helyer, N., Eatough, G., Backen, R. (2015). Nomanslanding. In: Nomanslanding. Urbane Künste Ruhr/Ruhrtriennale. The Eisenbahnhafen, Duisburg Ruhrort, Germany.

2014

  • Backen, R. (2014). Emptiness. In: Visual Arts Fellowships: Robyn Backen, Lindy Lee, Hilarie Mais. Australia Council for the Arts. The Australia Council for the Arts (window facade and foyer), Sydney, Australia.

2013

  • Backen, R. (2013). Bricked. In: Camouflage Cultures: surveillance, communities, aesthetics and animals. Sydney College of the Arts, the University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia.
  • Backen, R. (2013). It's me.. I'm here.. Where're you?. In: Tele Visions. Carriageworks, Sydney, Australia.
  • Backen, R. (2013). Night Watch. In: Night Watch. Grocon. (Permanent installation) 55 Elizabeth Street Brisbane, Brisbane, Australia.
  • Ely, D., Warner, G., Dement, L., Helyer, N., Backen, R., Paine, G., Newcombe, J., Starrs, J., Cmielewski, L. (2013). Siteworks: Ecologies and Technologies. 19th International Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA 2013), Sydney: ISEA International, the Australian Network for Art & Technology, and the University of Sydney.

2012

  • Backen, R. (2012). An Eye for an Eye. In: Daya/Kindness: Australia - India. India Habitat Centre and RMIT Gallery. Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, India.
  • Backen, R. (2012). Can You Hear Me?. In: TarraWarra Biennial 2012: Sonic Spheres. TarraWarra Museum of Art, Healesville, Victoria, Australia.
  • Backen, R., Dalziel, A., Hobbs, I., Mackenzie, N., Xen, M., Zinn, C. (2012). Last Word 2012. Siteworks 2012: Future Food Feast. Bundanon, Bundanon, Shoalhaven, Australia: Bundanon Trust.
  • Backen, R. (2012). Whisper Pitch. In: Dimension Crossing. Performance Space. Carriageworks, Sydney, Australia.

2011

  • Backen, R. (2011). Exposure. In: Works in Context. Rejymre Art LAB. Rejmyre | Art LAB, Rejmyre, Sweden.
  • Backen, R. (2011). Last word 2011. Siteworks 2011. Bundanon Residency, Bundanon, NSW, Australia: Bundanon Trust.

2010

  • Backen, R. (2010). End of the line. In: The Ghost Show. Hazelhurst Regional Gallery & Arts Centre, sydney, Australia.
  • Backen, R. (2010). Last word. Siteworks. Bundanon Residency, Shoalhaven, Australia, Australia: Bundanon Trust.
  • Backen, R. (2010). Robyn Backen. In: Connecting you | Robyn Backen. Canberra Contemporary Art Space Gorman House, Canberra, Australia.
  • Backen, R. (2010). Sylvan - Moreshead Drive Roadside Commission Canberra. Australia: Unrealized.

2009

  • Backen, R. (2009). A very enchanting thing 2007-2009. In: Mirror Mirror: then and now. Intitute of Modern Art. Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia.
  • Backen, R. (2009). Delicate Balance. Ballast Point, Birchgrove, Australia: Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority. Public.
  • Backen, R. (2009). Mangrove. In: City One Minute. The One Minutes Foundation and Holland Doc 24. City One Minutes URL and digital TV channel Holland DOC/VPRO, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
  • Backen, R. (2009). Walls that Whisper. In: Walls that Whisper. Museum of Australian Democracy. Old Parliament House, Canberra, Australia.

2007

  • Backen, R. (2007). 1. ATROPHY, 2006. In: Science as Art. Garvan Institute. Garvan Institute, Darlinghurst, Sydney, Australia.
  • Backen, R. (2007). 1. It's me 2. A Very Enchanting Thing. In: It's me… I'm here… where're you? Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Australia.
  • Backen, R. (2007). Whispering Trees. In: The 10th Haag Sculpture exhibition 'De Overkant/Down Under'. The Haag Sculpture. The Haag centre, The Haag, Netherlands.

2006

  • Backen, R. (2006). A Very Enchanting Thing. In: Yours, Mine and Ours: 50 Years of ABC TV. ABC, Campbelltown Art Centre, Penrith Regional Gallery, The Lewers Bequest and Arts NSW. Campbelltown Art Centre, Penrith Regional Gallery, Campbelltown, Australia.
  • Backen, R., Hayes, T., Barnett, H. (2006). Break in Play. In: Break in Play. Chrissie Cotter Gallery, Sydney, Australia.
  • Backen, R. (2006). Crowning Light. Canberra Museum and Gallery foyer, Australia: Canberra Museum and Gallery. Public Art Commission.
  • Backen, R. (2006). Filtering Perception. 128 Charlotte street, Brisbane, Australia: Devine Limited, Brisbane City Council.
  • Backen, R. (2006). Sounding Towers. Queensland Art Gallery, Australia: Queensland Art Gallery. Public Art Commission.

2005

  • Backen, R. (2005). Gesumptkunst. In: d. Afghanistan.
  • Backen, R., Tonkin, M. (2005). Vinculum. In: Vinculum. Artspace, Sydney, Australia.

2004

  • Backen, R. (2004). ALSO. In: Conversion: art in public sites in Goulburn. Goulburn Regional Art Gallery. Goulburn Cemetery, Goulburn, Australia.
  • Backen, R. (2004). Droplet. The Bond, 30 Hickson Road, Sydney, Australia: Lend Lease. Commercial.

2003

  • Backen, R. (2003). Eternal Silence. In: Imagining Prometheus. Palazzo della Ragione, Milan. Palazzo della Ragione, Milan, Italy.
  • Backen, R. (2003). Lux. St Canisis, Kings Cross, Australia: Public Art Commission.
  • Backen, R. (2003). Rice Talk. In: Rice Talk. Echigo-Tsumari Triennial 2003. Uwayu, Matsunoyama, Japan.

2002

  • Backen, R. (2002). SSO Calling all …this is our last cry before our eternal silence. In: The First 20 Years. Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Paddington, NSW, Australia.
  • Backen, R. (2002). The Building that Speaks. Brisbane Powerhouse Arts, Australia: Brisbane City Council. Public Art Commission.

2001

  • Backen, R., Attenbrow, V., Carson-Ewarthe, B. (2001). 1. Drop 2. X-ray wall 3. Sydney Waters Map 4. Projection 5. Underwater Soundscape 6. 5 Periscopes. In: Catching…the harbour. The Australian Museum, Sydney, Australia.
  • Backen, R. (2001). Banner Project. UNSPECIFIED: Public Art Commission.

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