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Seconds in Ecstasy
  • Artist Cajsa von Zeipel (Swedish, *1983)
  • TitleSeconds in Ecstasy
  • Dating 2010
  • Technique/MaterialSynthetic plaster on styrofoam
  • AcquisitionPurchase, 2010
  • CategorySculpture
  • Inventory NumberGKM 201066
  • Rights and ReproductionCajsa von Zeipel/BUS 2012©
  • Display StatusOn display in The Sculpture Hall
n the Sculpture Hall’s eastern end platform, a six-metre-tall pole dancer by Cajsa von Zeipel (born 1983), in the work Seconds in Ecstasy (2010), slowly rotates around her pole, stuck in an eternal loop. There is nothing graceful about her portrayal. The woman has rather a passive-aggressive expression that gives the impression of total control. Her ponytail and platform shoes are obvious markers intended to create a sense of attitude. The placement of the work and its monumental scale combine to put the viewer at a disadvantage. The traditional hierarchies between object and viewer are displaced, begging the question of who really is watching whom.

Cajsa von Zeipel often takes young women or teenage girls as her motif. Given art history’s endless procession of male heroes shown on a huge scale, the artist’s elevation of women to the same level is a comment on power structures and established systems of representation. In the past, from antiquity onwards, women have been shown as idealized female bodies, with particular attention drawn to their feminine and motherly traits. In von Zeipel’s works, the young female body is androgynous. With its gender transidentity, it confronts the viewer with the current anorexic, leggy ideal of beauty.

In its externals, von Zeipel’s idiom follows in the tradition of classical sculpture, but upgraded to a contemporary expression and materials—there is nothing here of the ancients’ lofty ideals. Cajsa von Zeipel models her sculptures in Styrofoam, before covering the final form with a layer of plaster. The characters are often shown involved in erotic games in an exploration of female sexuality, or in situations that turn on the youthful search for identity or physical self-absorption. The viewer is confronted with a psychological drama in which no position can be taken for granted, and is left with an uncomfortable sense of being an unwelcome presence. Cajsa von Zeipel’s sculptures amount to subversive statements, inviting debate about power, gender, and identity in the public sphere. This particular sculpture has a special place in the history of the Gothenburg Museum of Art’s collections, for von Zeipel is the youngest artist ever to be represented, and with the up-to-then largest work.

Seconds in Ecstasy was done as a site-specific work for the Royal Academy of Arts in Stockholm for von Zeipel’s Master’s degree at the Royal Institute of Art. Its setting in the Gothenburg Museum of Art inserts it into a different art-historical context, for instead of the Royal Academy of Arts’ plaster casts of ancient sculptures, the »stripper« is now surrounded by modern works from the Museum’s collection such as Gerhard Henning’s Ingeborg (1928) and Aristide Maillol’s Female Torso »Summer« (c.1910).

Anna Hyltze from The Collection Gothenburg Museum of Art, Gothenburg 2014