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Zoo CollectiveCajsa Von Zeipel

Angry girls, sex and cigarettes

Capricious selects radical NY sculptress Cajsa Von Zeipel as she challenges preconceptions of the passive female form

As part of our new summer US project States of Independence we've invited our favourite 30 American curators, magazines, creatives and institutions to takeover Dazed for a day. This week, State of Sex takes an all-encompassing look at sexuality, gender and all the flavours of the American rainbow.

“Ca·pri·cious – Given to sudden and unaccountable changes of mood or behaviour”. Over the past ten years multi-disciplinary art platform Capricious has crept up on us, carving out an undeniable monopoly on erotic, queer and feminist discourse through art. It only seemed right then, to get them to round-off State of Sex. Today they'll be giving us an exclusive insight into their favourite artists raising the bar right now. Check back here throughout the day for their Dazed guest edit

Swedish artist Cajsa Von Zeipel has been living and working in New York for little under a year but she's made a big splash, shaking up the art world with her larger-than-life teen girl gang sculptures. It's cliche sculpture speak but her clay creations come alive, taking over vast installation spaces with an almost aggressively confrontational air, challenging the passivity of the stereotypical female muse. We caught up with her to talk drawing her audience into the filth and seeing herself anew post-NYC move.

What's your art background? Has sex and the body always had a strong creative pull for you?

Cajsa Von Zeipel: No, I don't think so but I have always been into the balance where things are simultaneously appealing and scary – works that move from the attractive to the repulsive, grotesque and studied. Sex and the body fit right into that duality. Maybe I'm lying... thinking about it, I tried to do an amateur porn movie in art school the year before I started working with sculpture. That is so hard by the way!

What drew you to Capricious? The artists they feature are often very sexually-focussed, was that a factor for you?

Cajsa Von Zeipel: They invited me to have a solo exhibition and I really like what they stand for. I admire their way of talking about complex subjects and putting it out there in a simple way.

Your art has often had quite a performance angle to it – what prompted a shift towards sculpture?

Cajsa Von Zeipel: Before working with sculpture I did large scale installations. You could say a kind of performance act took place, in relation to my work, when I notice that my installations became a backdrop for people acting out. I thought that the group dynamics, characters and scenes that took place made my installations come alive, and I wanted to capture that, so sculpture made the most sense to me. I felt that photography for example became nostalgic, but the physical presence of sculpture makes the party go on forever.

“In another world, where my girls came alive, they would slap the passive faces of historical sculpture until they at least said something, like – 'what the fuck?!'” – Cajsa Von Zeipel

Do you have a storyline in mind as you sculpt your characters? Any recurring themes you tend to craft? 

Cajsa Von Zeipel: For sure, I mean have you seen my sculptures? Angry girls, sex and cigarettes. I'm working around these characters and emotions all the time. Sculpting is time consuming and it only describes a split second of the scenario and the larger picture. This is why I return to similar setups and some characters recur in new groups and group dynamics. Today I'm only ten minutes into the story line from where I was a year ago.

You've said in the past that you're very conscious of avoiding the doll-like proportions sculpture can sometimes slip into and that the girls you create are purposefully enlarged – why is that? 

Cajsa Von Zeipel: The way women have been depicted in sculpture historically is often minimized, nude, dull and lack expressions like anger and strength. Dolls but also mannequins are for me the same, just repeating the extremely boring patterns of how the female figure is depicted. I don't want my work to touch on this at all, and that is what pushes me technically, to be able to sculpt whatever emotion I want. In another world, where my girls came alive, they would slap the passive faces of historical sculpture until they at least said something, like – 'what the fuck?!'

Why do you feel it is so important to incorporate mirrors into the installation experience with your sculptures? What are you trying to express there?

Cajsa Von Zeipel: To examine the viewers' attitudes and point to our self-conceptions. I have also been obsessed with the myth of Narcissus where the mirror plays a central role. For the piece "Bed Scene" that depicts three young women in bed involved in an attempt to group sex, a mirror floor surrounds it. I wanted you, as the viewer, to unconsciously be part of the filthiness – instead of just standing there, looking at naked teenage bottoms. Even though the mirror floor took up a majority of the gallery space, it took a long time for several ladies, in skirts, to realize that there was a clear view of their crotches being reflected in the floor. 

How does the art world in NYC compare to the one you started out in back in Stockholm – has it had an impact on your creativity or opened you up to different forms of artistic expression or are you happy making art wherever?

Cajsa Von Zeipel: First of all, it's so much bigger. I like the art world in Stockholm, it's in good shape but there's only one. What I love about NYC is that it's so diverse, if you don't like something you can just move onto the next thing. I haven't even been here for a year, so I think it's too early for me to talk about how it's affected my work really. But what I can say is that the city has made me see myself again, and that was the main reason for me to come here as I felt trapped in the identity I had created in Stockholm. I'm working on a new group of girls right now, so lets see what happens. It will be up in September at Capricious 88.

Which sexually charged artist/collective do you most admire in the US right now?

Cajsa Von Zeipel: Hey...Capricious of course!