“I think the goal is, that when people see a book, a film or an art show, and they see that’s it’s produced by Parallel Production, they know it will be something unique,” said Alexandra Backstrom, owner of Parallel Production and an international student at California State University, Fullerton. “Property of Scavenger”, Backstrom and Parallel Production’s first art book sits on the table in front of her, crisp white folded paper within a black plastic case, peaks out beneath the cardboard sandwiching the book, secured with rubber bands to protect the cover during the flight from Sweden.
An art book, Backstrom explains, can fall anywhere on the spectrum of a book of purely text describing an art installation to a book with only pictures and no words, similar to what is found on a coffee table. “You have to do this, the paper must have got stuck on the plane,” she says, quickly and carefully freeing the book from it’s cardboard packaging, to reveal a black plastic cover, engraved with the common features of a book: title, author, synopsis on the back, however looking more similar to the cover that slides off of a DVD case. Backstrom slides her hand up the sides of the case, pealing the paper from the inside of the case, freeing the folded dot matrix paper on which the text is written.
Backstrom’s has a strong accent and has a low soft voice, her words sound carefully selected, often inserting “um” to hold the place until she finds the correct words to properly express herself. Back in Sweden, Backstrom worked at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in a demanding management position, often getting calls on the weekends and evenings, reaching a point to when she even was unable to get away for vacation for two years without taking the work with her. In her spare time she managed to write “Property of Scavenger”.
After two years as a manager and 5 years as a receptionist, team leader and first manager, within the same organization, Backstrom decided to start her own business, using her knowledge and ambition to create her own career instead, coming from a family of entrepreneurs and artists. In the process of deciding what type of business Backstrom would start, her sister Miriam Backstrom, an artist known in the Swedish art community, offered to sell her production company. Backstrom simply purchased the shares without having to pay the fees or handle the paperwork, gaining Parallel Film Productions, “I have the film silent for now,” she said “since I don’t do films, but I have the rights to produce them in the future and I are actually planning an adaptation for Property of Scavenger to a feature film this summer.”
“When you get out of your own country, or even just leaving your city you get out of your old habits and start thinking in new ways, and I think I needed that,” said Backstrom. Backstrom’s full time job that eliminated any free time and the need for Swedish artists to appeal to a global market if they wish to support themselves without a second job, influenced Backstrom to explore the possibilities of studying abroad. Wanting to avoid another dark Swedish winter and driven by the desire to make films with her company, the Los Angeles and Orange County Area seemed the most obvious destinations for her schooling.
Wanting to avoid the high numbers of Swedish students that attend Santa Monica College, Backstrom went with the alternate school that was highly recommended by the people she contacted about studying abroad, California State University, Fullerton. “I love it, the school is perfect, the teachers are good and the students are ambitious,” said Backstrom of her business management, philosophy and writing class. Taking the leave of absence at the museum to attend CSUF, allows her to take better classes than the night courses offered in Sweden and to develop her writing skills as she learns to run and expand her business.
Parallel Production focuses on teaming up artists to produce unique collaborations that elevate and give complexity to otherwise straightforward art books. “Property of Scavenger” is the first collaboration between author and graphic artist, creating a text on dot matrix, inspired by the digital format of the book, both wanting to create a physical form of the book and capturing the scrolling action of downloaded text, a continuous speech or thought process of the narrator.
As technology tries to take the place of books, Backstrom seeks to cater to those resistant to technology and those who appreciate art, with her art books. “Technology kind of creates two different worlds and I think you have to explore both, and use them within every project,” explains Backstrom.