In her latest show, sculptor Cajsa Von Zeipel creates new works based on artist Camille Claudel’s famous series ‘The Gossips’
In French sculptor, Camille Claudel’s “The Gossips” (1897), a group of four women are huddled with their heads together expressively gesturing to one another as to be in secret conversation. Their privacy is a direct absorption of Claudel’s paranoia, one that was part of her growing psychosis and her struggle with mental health several years after her split with fellow sculptor Auguste Rodin. It’s this exact sculpture and the way it reflected Claudel’s mental state that informs Swedish sculptor Cajsa Von Zeipel’s latest show The Gossips, some 100 years after Claudel first cast the idea. Taking this, and the literal idea of gossip as a way that we invasively dramatise the lives of others, Von Zeipel presents four new ethereally shaped sculptures.
Running at London’s Arcadia Missa until 16 February, The Gossips addresses ideas of gender and technology. Incorporating colour for the first time into her artistry, the four works titled “Who”, “What”, “Where”, and “Why”, are doused in ethereal pastels with genderless characters. Some gleam as if they are wet or digitally rendered, while others appear scaled as if they’ve just emerged from the sea, representing what Von Zeipel thinks humans will look like in 100 years if they can keep up with the rate of technology. Dildos, bongs, and phone cables are a few of the sculptural elements in The Gossips, drawing on the hedonistic nature of her previous work, like her 2017 Arcadia show Insulting the Archive, which featured sculptures of the artist’s friends smoking, drinking, and fucking.
Grouped together in the gallery space as if they are gossiping with one another, Von Zeipel’s new sculptures draw on the idea of gossip as a socially defined female act and her use of nudity in the show reflects on society’s fear of women collectivising – channelling much of the paranoia Claudel too would have felt suffering mentally in an era where women were deemed hysterical if they were to openly express their mental health.
Below we speak to the artist about her love for Claudel, her technological visions for our future world, and the recent shift in her artistry.
Why were you drawn to Camille Claudel’s The Gossips as inspiration for The Gossips?
Cajsa Von Zeipel: As a sculptor, I have always been interested in Rodin and pretty quickly I found Camille. I was super curious about her and her practice that is so often overlooked. With “The Gossips”, I love the title maybe more than the piece itself. I'm drawn to the fact that she did version after version of this same piece, but all of them with significative changes in different materials, similar to how the nature of gossip transforms. I read that she started making them after her break with Rodin which was when she started to suffer from paranoia. It’s just a very honest and beautiful work in relation to where she was in life.
How does the idea of gossip translate through the sculptures?
Cajsa Von Zeipel: “What’s the latest gossip?” I heard myself asking this question just yesterday, embarrassingly enough, because you don't gossip in your finest moments. You gossip to track other peoples dramas, issues, and fights. Gossip isn't gossip if it isn't good. You need to get to a certain level of who, what, where, why, so these are the titles of the four sculptures in the show. They are also all wearing some kind of communication device which insinuates them talking amongst each other about whoever is looking at them, for example.
I’m interested in the balance between reality and fiction in the word gossip as well as the complexity of the meaning. The more established the gossip gets the less gossip it is, it kind of kills itself. It measures the temperature of your network access and your morality – I wonder if they gossip a lot in church?
Your traditional sculptures are all white. What’s the significance of incorporating colour in The Gossips?
Cajsa Von Zeipel: Oh, its like fresh air! Or, maybe it’s a delayed reaction to moving from Stockholm to New York five years ago. I don't know what it means really or what it stands for or where it’s heading and that’s kinda the point.
Why did you bring fantasy into your sculptures for this show and how do these fantastical elements dispel gender?
Cajsa Von Zeipel: Over the past ten years, every now and then, people want to know what the gender of my characters are. It’s one of those things when the fresh eyes of the viewer have somewhat a better sense of what the work is about than yourself. Inside my bubble, this is just how my community looks like – nine out of ten being queer.
I feel like I've been researching and analysing classical sculpture for a long time now. What was gender back then? What kind of personal traits are depicted in the representation of a female vs male? Is the size of the sculpture itself related to the objects sex? etc. The white surface is clean in its aesthetics but oh my god, how much information and history it holds.
The very recent change of materials for me working with silicone and this group being the first shown in this technique brings a new expression along with a new time frame. If I have been throwing the boomerang back in time earlier, I feel like I turned 180 degrees in the other direction, feeding on ideas of how our biology will look in 100 years. Can it evolve at the same speed as how we’ve seen technology develop in the last 50? So far, I have no idea, I just started.
The Gossips is running at London’s Arcadia Missa until 16 February. You can find out more here