Robyn Backen is a Sydney based artist working across disciplines to create artworks that generate collaborative engagement with technologies, science, and philosophy. Over the past two decades, her artworks have evolved from a deep intrigue in communication and telephonic systems. Drawing upon research into technology and materials, investigating patterns and systems within her practice, like language, nature, and remembering. Her body of work is not bound by medium or scale, with large public commissions contrasting against smaller sound and light works. Recent works have evolved from research into message exchange patterns (MEP), broader notions of sending and receiving, sound wave patterns, and sound within parabolic forms. Her practice is a multi-faceted conversation between space, context, and audience. Whether gallery, landscape or building, the site provides the structural and associative framework for formal and conceptual elements.
Contributing to this practice are my large public commissioned artworks such as Weeping Walls 2001 Sydney International Airport; Rice Talk 2003 Echigo Tsumari Triennial Japan, a permanent fibre optic installation in a bedroom of a historic farmhouse; Delicate Balance at Ballast Point Park for the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority 2009 and an international collaboration Nomanslanding, touring between Sydney, Germany and Scotland (2015-17). Most recently, she completed Voices Within, a public artwork commissioned for the newly developed precinct of Green Square.
Some of her digital screen and sound artworks include: it’s me…i’m here…where’re you? 2007 Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery and Yours mine ours: 50 years of ABC TV incorporating film clips from the ABC archive, creating a poetic history of telephonic communication collected from ABC tv drama; Walls that Whisper, 2009 Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, Canberra, sound and projections of poetic interpretations engaging the historical site; Connecting You, 2011 Canberra Contemporary Art Space, a large anamorphic text projection, soundscape and mirror installation; Night Watch, 2013 CBD Brisbane, a three-storey one-off LED screen sending messages across Brisbane CBD skyline; Whisper Pitch, Performance Space, Carriageworks, a pair of whispering walls with soundscape and augmented borrowed film footage; If you do not speak do I speak for you? 2015 Incinerator Art Space, Willoughby Sydney, an installation simulating the incineration of projected text and spoken word – referencing the Walter Burley Griffin architecture; Thought Train, Wynscreen 2017, Transport for NSW; Barnwall, I am Jet Back Glass and Water Without End, Spaced 3: North by Southeast, Art Gallery of WA, created during residencies in Sweden 2016-19. In 2021-22 Robyn exhibited a performative film work Literary Purdah, in Spirit of 21, Cementa and at the SCA performance event.
In 2014-16 Robyn was awarded an Australia Council Fellowship that generously funded significant research development of international acoustic architecture, ancient and contemporary. The magic of her whispering wall research over the past eight years continues to influence many of her slowly evolving projects. Robyn is engaged in an ongoing collaborative project, Clean it up! with the Swedish arts organisation Rejmyre Art Lab.
Robyn Backen is a 0.5 Senior Lecturer at SCA, University of Sydney.