Liv Stromquist, Sweden, artist, the Knife

Q&A | Cartoonist Liv Strömquist on Using Art to Shake the Habitual

Liv Strömquist is a cartoonist from Malmö, Sweden. She mostly makes satirical, feminist comics but recently drew media attention because of a comic on extreme wealth she was commissioned to do to accompany Swedish act the Knife’s most recent, possibly final, album Shaking The Habitual. Sarah found out more.

How did you start working as a comic artist?
I started making comics as a kid, and when I was in my early 20s I started making my own comic fanzine. I was very inspired by the riot grrrl movement in the USA, in particular the band Bikini Kill, and I read that they made feminist fanzines, so that was a big inspiration, as well as the whole sort of underground, punk, feminist DIY-art world.

What kind of topics do you usually address through your work?
I work with a lot of topics: world politics, love, capitalism, celebrity, environmental issues and so on. My last album is completely dedicated to the female sex organ – or the cultural construction of the female sex organ – with different chapters about orgasm, the inner labias, menstruation and so on.

Why do you think graphic art can be such a powerful way to address social and political issues?
I don’t know. Maybe because cartoons are not considered to be either serious fine art or serious political debate, and that creates a quite open and free space. You can joke, be ironic, be childish – you can cross lines that are harder to cross if you write, say, an article in a newspaper.

Can you give us some background on the “end extreme wealth” comic you did for the Knife?
The Knife contacted me because they had read my comics and liked them. They asked me if I wanted to draw something for the folder inside their album. They wanted something that was suitable with the music and the political message of the album Shaking The Habitual. We discussed different topics and I came up with the idea to make this comic about ending extreme wealth.

What are your personal thoughts on ending extreme wealth? 
Global development over the last decades has created a global class of extremely over-rich people, who benefit from things like the financial crisis and so on. This is a real problem that needs to be addressed. I think that social problems often are framed as if the victims are the problem, and the comic is an attempt to turn that around.

What’s the Whitney comic about?
I wanted to make a comic about domestic violence, and the reasons why it’s very difficult to break up such a relationship. I think it is linked with our time’s strong belief in romantic love, so I used the Whitney Houston song ‘I Will Always Love You’ as a frame for this comic and Whitney as a symbol. I also was a very big fan of Whitney Houston when I was a kid and I have always really loved her. This comic is made a few years before her death.

What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a new collection on the topics of global capitalism, money, economy, social class systems and so on. Hopefully it will be released in August 2016.

The recent stabbing in Trollhättan has highlighted racial tensions in Sweden as the number of people arriving, seeking asylum, rises. What are your thoughts on Sweden’s responsibilities in terms of migration?
There has been a very sad development in the whole EU over the last decades with the rise of different right wing extremist parties, who are very negative about immigration and often outspokenly racist. In the tracks of these right wing populist movements there has been a rise in racist violence and racially motivated terrorism, both Trollhättan and Utøya [in Norway] are examples of this. It’s extremely scary and I really hope that these types of ideologies are pushed back. But I don’t know if that’s what’s going to happen.

Can you tell us a bit about the art community in Sweden, and Malmö?
There is kind of a golden age going on in Sweden when it comes to feminist comics – there are a number of very successful and brilliant feminist cartoonists that have been very successful over the last six to eight years. Cartoonists I recommend are Nina Hemmingsson, Sara Graner, Nanna Johansson, Hanna Gustavsson, Amalia Alvarez.

Do you still also work in radio?
I have two podcasts, one satirical political podcast called Lilla Drevet that I make with three friends, and one cultural, political, feminist podcast that I make with my friend, the writer Caroline Ringskog Ferrada-Noli.


Liv Strömquist is a graphic artist from Malmö, Sweden. Follow her on Instagram.

Sarah Illingworth is a freelance journalist and Editor at Impolitikal. She has an MSc in Poverty & Development from the University of Manchester. Read more by Sarah.