New Voices in the Nordics: Linnéa Sjöberg

An interview between the artist Linnéa Sjöberg and writer Alice Godwin

Portrait of Linnéa Sjöberg

Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Steinsland Berliner

Your first major textile work was 'Four Generations of Darkness' (2016), which is this incredible weaving of objects found in the attic of your childhood home in Strömsund, Sweden. How do you think the meaning of an object and its past lives change when it becomes part of a tapestry?

I grew up with the rag rugs my grandmother made from old family clothes, which were like an archive of family history that you could walk on. I was really inspired to work with materials in the same way and explore the nostalgia of childhood. I wanted to use these materials as a metaphor for the family home, where so much has been left unsaid and forgotten stories lie in the shadows.

I started by preparing all the garments—cutting them up and weaving them into the tapestry. During that process I found that really strong feelings arose, like the sharp memories of how it felt to be in my body and insecure about fitting into a pair of jeans. I was also surprised by the attachment I had to some items, which I just couldn’t cut up—I rolled them instead and wove them in as cones.

By cutting up the clothes, I freed them from their functionality and made this new entity. It was all about how memories dissolve and past lives disappear. I was also using that transformation to free myself from the attachment I had for certain objects.

Linnéa Sjöberg, Four Generations of Darkness, 2016

Courtesy of the artist. Photo by Belenius Gallery

It’s fascinating to think how the power of an object can be stripped away or changed when it becomes part of a tapestry—it no longer exists in the same way.

Your practice has two sides—the making of textiles and the performance works, where you’ve embodied characters like the ambitious businesswoman ('Gtds4810' (2009-2011)) and tattooist Linnéa Ölberg ('Salong Flyttkartong' (2012-2014)). The residual materials of these performances are used in your tapestries. Is this where the two sides of your practice meet? In the performative nature of objects?

I have always needed to have a connection with the material I work with, and that material needed to have a story. The businesswoman and Salong Flyttkartong arose from being so curious about a subject that I actually became the subject. In the case of businesswoman, I was kind of afraid of this woman who was my total opposite. I knew I had to take care of the clothes she wore and the leftovers from her everyday life because now, these are the only things that remain. It's only through these leftovers that I can look back and understand what I went through.

Linnéa Sjöberg, GTD4s810, 2009-2011 [left], Linnéa Sjöberg, Salong Flyttkartong, 2012-2014 [right]

Courtesy of the artist

It must have been such a strange experience to embrace a character that was so different to yourself, and then detach yourself from that role.

From my point of view, it was all about class. I come from a working class family in the north of Sweden, so I was never exposed to this type of powerful businesswoman. I never felt I could be that person and it was with a trembling inferiority complex I stepped into this character. From my naive point of view, it was during this performance I realised that because of the way I look, I could pass for a privileged white woman in other people's eyes... It was a learning process.

During the performance, I kept my old belongings in vacuum bags—the remains of the Club Kid Linnéa. It was quite masochistic in a way, being able to see the clothes I had attached my identity to, without allowing myself to touch them or put them on again. But I wanted to explore my attachment to those objects and ask, who am I in these clothes? What happens when I take them off?

The end of the businesswoman was more like a downfall. I had some tattoos back then that I had to hide for one and a half years, and when I did finally show the tattoos again there was a such a burst of energy that there was no turning back. I was also at the point of exhaustion from censoring myself.

Linnéa Sjöberg, documentation from the durational performance GTD4s810, 2009-2011

Courtesy of the artist. Photo by Thomas Klementsson

Was the question of class also important in the making of tattoo studio 'Salong Flyttkartong?'

I think Salong Flyttkartong was more of a rebellious counterpart to the businesswoman—I emerged from one into the other. I had always made scribbles on my body and asked home tattooists to tattoo me, and these were often men because that was the culture around me. Then I thought, why can’t I do this myself? Eventually, people started coming to me directly for tattoos.

At the time, I didn’t have anywhere to live and I was always moving around with these “flyttkartong” (moving boxes). So it was kind of an ironical gesture towards the concrete, masculine tattoo studios. I wanted to be someone that disappears, with a temporary, cardboard studio. The whole idea of Salong Flyttkartong was that it couldn’t be, shouldn’t be approved. It was not supposed to be easily grasped.

But really, I became those two characters to step outside of the art world. As soon as Salong Flyttkartong was recognized by the Stockholm art scene, it died.

Linnéa Sjöberg, documentation from the durational performance Salong Flyttkartong, 2012-2014. “The Artist is President”, performance night “Bomb”, curated by Roger von Reybekiel and Olav Westphalen at Platform, Stockholm, 2013.

Courtesy of the artist

Do you think you’ll take on such a role again?

I hope so, I miss it every day. But then Salong Flyttkartong was so intense and I never had a pause after the businesswoman. Weaving has almost been a rehabilitation because inside the wooden structure of a loom, nobody can touch me, nobody can see me, nobody can comment.

I’m really interested in the role of the female body in your work—particularly in your performances where you’ve explored the performative tropes of the businesswoman with her glamorous clothes and blonde bob, and then rebelled against the macho tattooist community. For "Boob Job Tattoo" you actually tattooed the lines made by a plastic surgeon for a fake breast enlargement on your body.

“Boob Job Tattoo” was very much the link between the businesswoman and Salong Flyttkartong. I was curious to explore this normative idea of the female body. I went to a doctor in New York for a pre-consultation and was very transparent that I would not have the surgery—it was more about the lines he would draw. I was curious to have that male gaze on my body and have it manifest as this precise, specific line.

Linnéa Sjöberg, A Boob Job Tattoo, 2013

Courtesy of the artist. Photo by Shawna Ferreira

And of course weaving is so loaded with female associations in art history, we can’t help but consider the role of women in your tapestries.

I did a shorter performance called Bad Viking (2018) at Gunnes Gård outside Stockholm, which is a re-enactment viking village, where I lived as a viking woman and learnt basic, traditional weaving skills. I wished I had stayed there longer.

My main focus has been on my grandmother and her rugs. I work so much with the body; I think that is also why I got into textiles. I’ve never been afraid of textiles because they are materials that we wear on our bodies every day.

You’ve described the motto behind 'Salong Flyttkartong' as “acting before thinking.” You also work very instinctively, often not knowing how a project will end. It strikes me that weaving, by contrast, is such a methodical process that requires careful planning. I wonder how you navigate those two poles?

I work on the limit all the time. In my performances, I was so much on the surface of myself that I couldn’t think about what would happen next. I think I needed weaving to provide that space for contemplation. But the first tapestries I made did not have a plan, they were quite abstract and looked like an explosion of the brain. In the last few years though, I have been changing my practice.

Linnéa Sjöberg, Pattern of Thoughts EEET, 2019

Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Steinsland Berliner. Photo by Alexandra de Cossette

How has your relationship with weaving changed since you began working with the loom over ten years ago?

In those early tapestries, the stories are within the materials. At some point though, I decided to explore what would happen if I let the stories emerge. I think that’s the movement in my work—from meaning being in the tapestries, to stories taking place on the tapestries.

And what about the works coming to CHART this summer?

At the moment, I’m very much focused on the inner body and where identity really lies. In my private life, I’ve been going through IVF, which has been a really introspective time. For the last two years, my identity has been all about my uterus and you feel so exposed by that. I never thought I would be that person who placed her whole identity on her uterus, but I’ve been surprised how hard all the expectations of being a woman have been on me.

One recent tapestry is a portrait of my first failed embryo transfer—it’s based on a photograph that the clinic shows you as evidence of the embryo they are implanting, like proof of life. It’s strange how powerful an image can be and now I have a whole bunch of these images. For me, the loom has been a way of processing that experience. I think it will be a part of my art for some years to come. My practice has always been autobiographical and I can’t hide behind other subjects.

"I have always needed to have a connection with the material I work with, and that material needed to have a story."

Linnéa Sjöberg


Linnéa Sjöberg’s projects can be described as performative research, embodying the subject of her interest to the point where no distinction can be made between her work and her persona. The remnants of her actions are documented through text, printed matter, sculpture and textile works. Sjöberg’s current practice is focused on weaving and textile work, informed by her own family history and personal life.

Linnéa Sjöberg (b. 1983) lives and works between Stockholm, Sweden and Berlin, Germany. Sjöberg holds an MA from the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm and her work is represented in important institutional collections including: Moderna Museet Stockholm and Magasin III, among others.

Alice Godwin is a British writer, researcher and journalist based in Copenhagen, whose focus is sharing stories about the vibrant Scandinavian contemporary art world with an international audience. She graduated from the University of Oxford and Courtauld Institute of Art with degrees in History of Art, and worked for Gagosian as an in-house writer in London before moving to Denmark in 2022. She is a regular contributor to the Gagosian Quarterly magazine and wrote an essay for the exhibition catalogue Damien Hirst: Fact Paintings and Fact Sculptures (2022). Writing for publications including Artforum, The Brooklyn Rail, e-flux, Frieze and Wallpaper, she has also penned essays for galleries such as Bo Bjerggaard and Susanne Ottesen in her celebration of the Nordic art scene.