06/16 – 06/19/2022

Fruits of Knowledge

Die Welten der Liv Strömquist

Swedish comic artist Liv Strömquist is a phenomenon: with her feminist-political studies of everyday life, a fusion between science slam and stand-up comedy, she has so far reached hundreds of thousands of readers. Her recipe for success? "I've always drawn," she says in an interview with ARTE. "And even as a child, I always wrote in the drawings what the characters were saying. Actually, I don't do anything else today."

Thematically, Strömquist's comic stories range from women's lives in the Middle Ages to Kylie Jenner's selfie empire, from Seneca's views on marriage to Bruno Bettelheim's statements on fairy tales (experts usually appear in person in Strömquist's comics) and from new insights into the Garden of Paradise to anorexia in Empress Sissi's palace. In between, the question is asked whether the animal world is really suitable as a model for "natural" human behaviour. Then again, a T-shirt design in a shop window in Malmö prompts a reflection on marriage as a trap. And again and again there are close-ups of paths, trails, forests and ponds - landscapes in which the comic figures, released from their stories, can be seen sometimes on the run, sometimes in joyful departure, then again in relaxed slumber on the meadow.

It is fitting that Strömquist caused controversy with an art installation in a Stockholm underground station, of all places. On the wall behind the tracks she installed, among other images, a huge picture of an ice dancer performing a spiral: one foot on the ice, the other high in the air, and between her legs a small menstrual stain. There was approval, but also protests and vandalism, up to the election promise of the Swedish right-wing populists to enforce a ban on "menstruation art" if they won the election.

In the exhibition "Fruits of Knowledge", six rooms in the Kunstpalais Erlangen provide an insight into Liv Strömquist's diverse worlds. At its core is the reading experience: videos of people with very different connections to Strömquist read aloud from the books. The readers are: Katharina Erben (comic translator), Bela B Felsenheimer (rock musician), Benigna Munsi (drama student and former Nuremberg Christ Child), Angelika Richter (actress), Hella von Sinnen (comedian), Johann Ulrich (publisher) and Charlotte Weyh (schoolgirl).

The themes of their readings are expanded on the walls, on wallpaper and in showcases - a cheerful tour through philosophy, worlds of feeling and myths re-read, all the way to the vulva in prehistory, that "origin of the world" with which Strömquist's success story in Germany began barely ten years ago.

Brigitte Helbling