Interview with Alex Backstrom, Visual Writer – Gagnef, Sweden

I had the absolute pleasure of spending time with the creative Alex Backstrom at Gagnef festival 2017. Her positive outlook on life is infectious which is evident in her open mindedness of her art and how she lives her life with a radiant yet realistic smile. 

Her Audio Visual tour was like nothing else I had experienced before. I was greeted by Alex with open arms and a vibrant smile, standing by a tractor decorated in trees. I was taken by surprise when she said “hop on we are going on a tractor ride”. 

With the use of ear phones, her tour takes you through the quaint town of Gagnef whilst providing you with an audio story featuring the people and town of Gagnef. Her words are brought to life as you cruise through the town on the tractor and see what the narrator is sharing with you. 

Once the tour was over we sat on the tractor trailer for well over an hour and caught up on life, travel and creativity. 

Life & Travel:

Why is Occupandi Temporis important to you? 

Well there is the well-known saying Carpe Diem, but what that statement misses is the fact that a day is so long and if we only seize the day we miss out on a lot. Instead, it’s all about the moment. A day is filled with fragmented parts, each as important as the other. We need to make every moment count by living in the now, and stop living in the future. If we get cought up in the fact that we have a whole day to enjoy we already live in the future as we can enjoy the next part or the upcoming evening, but if we focus on the moment, the now, there is no later.

Wow! That’s really powerful and insightful. How do you encompass this in your daily life? 

This is something I have been focusing on in my daily life. I would often find myself living in the future, always pushing myself for what was to come, but now I focus on being present in the moment. For what if then never comes, all that matters is now. So I try to do more things that make me happy. I listen to music while I clean the house, daydream on the bus, or just do more of what I enjoy. I chose to be wherever I am, so I might as well enjoy it.

What advice or wisdom would you pass onto others who wish to live each moment and be more present? 

Life is too short to be rushed. Put down the camera and be in the moment. That’s how true memories are made.  

I couldn’t agree more. My problem is getting too into things and realising i didn’t take enough, or if any photos at all, of what I’m experiencing. I am working on that though. 

What are three things (besides your passport, cards and money) that I would find in your carry on luggage when traveling? 

1. Notebook

2. Computer 

3. Medicine 

I like to have my notebook and computer ready with battery so if I have a creative idea I can work on it right away. And I always carry medicine because I don’t want to have to say no to an opportunity to create a memory only because of bad health.

Where is your favourite place to travel and why? 

I love travelling to the USA. The states represent real freedom for me. I love the diversity and that I can rent a car to road trip and meet with friends. Everything I need when I travel is right there, mountains, oceans, national forests, vibrant cities, small ghost towns, everything.
Alex on Art:

What inspires you when creating art? 

I Interpret my dreams by keeping a collage dream book. If I’ve had a dream I’ll collect images and words to then use in my art. I love analysing myself and the world and I do most of that in my dreams. This place is the inspiration, that place is where the real work is being done. I used to dislike the fact that we waste so much time sleeping, but I didn’t know then how important that part is for us.

What challenges you when creating art?

I would say the circumstances and situations I put myself in. Being approached by Sara Rossling for Gagnef to create the audio visual tour opened up new challenges for me since I had never done an audio work before. I guess all the collaborative exhibitions stretch my artistic talent too.  

You’re the first visual author I’ve met. How’d you fall into this style of creating? 

My first passion was writing screen plays. There is something really amazing about watching your work be brought to life. I have worked on writing novels but they are too long and people don’t have the patience to read anymore. This led me to creating artists books for short stories and experimenting with texts as sculptures. I do belive that this is a category that the artworld is lacking.

I write for my work to be seen and I found that I didn’t fit into either category of being strictly a ‘visual artists’ or a ‘writer’ so I came up with being a visual writer. 

What is unique about featuring your art at Gagnef? 

It’s my first time coming to Gagnef and also the first time I have been a part of an audio tour. I hadn’t created a piece for a festival before so that was exciting. I think having something that takes you outside of the festival is awesome. It really expands the boundaries of the festival while giving people a break from all the festivities. 

You can see more of Alex’s work and listen to the audio tour at along with one of her previous work where she created over 300 black-out poems to cover each page in the classic On The Road novel by Jack Kerouac, each page representing a memory form her first road trip through the USA when she was 19, now part of the collection at the Swatch Art Peace Hotel in Shanghai, China.



Altered State of Gagnef – YouTube:



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