Discovery: Cajsa von Zeipel

Entering the gallery space where artist Cajsa von Zeipel has installed her first solo exhibition, “Lento Violento,” at Andréhn-Schiptjenko in Stockholm, is like trespassing the end of a party. The sculptures vibrate with nocturnal energy: white figures made out of three different materials combined, styrofoam, jesmonite, and plaster, all engaged in different stages of copulation, domination, and submission. Von Zeipel’s work stems from thoughts on narcissism and youth culture, like the pro-ana culture. Her work relates to the strong desires of realizing the self no matter what the cost.

Interview met and walked around with von Zeipel on the reflecting mirror gallery floors to learn the source of this scenery.

HOMETOWN: Gothenburg, Sweden. Later I moved to Stockholm and studied for a Master’s Degree at the Royal Institute of Art.

STARTING OUT: I started very late with sculpture, only in my fourth year of art school did I really go ahead and properly focus on sculpture. Previously I made performance and installation art. I find it compelling to work with specific characters a little longer. Because sculptures take quite a long time to produce, similar characters continue through my work on a long-term basis, [it] gives me more time to keep evolving my ideas. Mirrors have been there next to my sculptures to enhance certain feelings from the beginning; it’s also because my work began to develop entirely after a lecture on narcissism, and I wanted to bring the mirror as a reference to the starting point of where my work took off from. This was during my exchange year at Stäedelschule [in Frankfurt, Germany] and I took these ideas and tried for a long period to abstain myself from eating. I wanted to practice the relations that I thought to have found between narcissism and the pro-anorexic culture and see where it would take me. It was very costly for my well-being. It was only after I finished this that I took my experience and translated it to working with sculpture. My work is not about anorexia at all, but the anatomical interest that I have comes from this period in my life.

CHARACTERS: Since my first sculpture, I have always worked with a kind of character, a young woman, who often interacts with other young women. If I would have put a man in the sex scenes that I’ve made, then there would be a power game where everything would depend on him, and for me that is very uninteresting, but since I’ve been working with this for a couple of years now, it also becomes more challenging on a personal level to work with men. So I have two in this exhibition, but they are the sexually frustrated, peripheral ones who can’t be part of the actual scene, and I placed them to be quite alienated having a moment acting out on sexual desires for themselves instead.

CLASSICISM: I try to somehow position myself away from the classic way of making sculptures. I work figuratively, but I think it’s quite interesting to try to get the object to be built with a mind, that you come away from that simple studying of the object in 360 degrees without somewhere during that moment meeting their eyes. One sculpture, King, portrays a half-naked young woman, she stands and looks at herself in the mirror. She is not particularly interested of you as her voyeur, she keeps self-focus, whereas the viewer, first looking at her in the mirror then basically seeing yourself in comparison to the sculpture, the mirrors makes aware of what a fucking jerk you are watching her. Somehow there is a mob built into the exhibition I imagine, in part of their rather judgmental glances, and you are forced to face yourself when you’re walking around.

SCALE: I’m extremely tired of reductions of human characters, especially since I work with the concept of young women, and usually in sculpture the girls are pretty small, smaller than real life, and also passive. So I never work from a scale of 1:1, it is always enlarged.

MUSICAL INFLUENCE: I’ve been listening countless hours, before and during the production of this exhibition, to Gigi D’Agostino’s album Lento Violento …e altre storie, this very hard but slow and melodious hardcore electro, where I also found inspiration for the name of my project. I wanted a reference to something I’d been greatly influenced by, but I also like the idea of using a language that I don’t speak, when for everyone it would have been easier to simply refer in English.