Tell Me What I’m Looking At: “Seconds in Ecstasy”

This June my mother and I went to Sweden and while we were there we visited several art museums, as is standard whenever we go anywhere together. Ostensibly, we both enjoy seeing art. Moreover, my mother loves gift shops. Among the art museums on our itinerary was the Gothenburg Museum of Art, a gorgeous museum, maze-like and old, with baroque gilt frames, high ceilings, rooms of melancholy Swedish landscapes – grey snow, “the long grey dusk” – and then there was this:


A 20′-tall floor-to-ceiling stripper pole ornamented with one inverted nymphic giantess in panties and camisole, thigh-high stockings, and platform heels, slowly, permanently rotating. Medium: styrofoam, plaster, fiberglass, the object status of female humans. Pink light. I thought I was looking at yet another example of the sexualized female body exhibited for display to an androcentric masculinist target audience for whom the only laudable thing for a woman to make or to be is a sexualized object, on display, for the male viewer. Yet again, the point was that I was looking at a woman. She was skinny, white, fashionably lacking in clothing, so I’m recognizing her as “ATTRACTIVE.” Here I am, looking at an attractive woman, and she is art; the pleasure is in looking at her. I am supposed to derive some satisfaction from looking at a giant white stripper eternally circling her pole. Certainly the men in the sculpture gallery with me were satisfied with the object they were viewing. They saw a woman the way they wanted and expected to see a woman: as a sexualized object. And they were smiling and chuckling to themselves. I hated them. And I hated the piece, entitled “Seconds in Ecstasy,” the product of the Swedish sculptor Casja von Zeipel.  All she makes are these skinny white foam women and more rarely men, sometimes a stiletto boot off on its own. My mother and I saw another sculpture of hers outside a department store: white woman, high heels, leather jacket, underwear, holding up the store like Atlas holding up the globe, sort of the embodiment of the seas of young women destined to enter the store to buy high heels and underwear seeking to become beautiful to the eye of whoever until the death of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. Continue reading “Tell Me What I’m Looking At: “Seconds in Ecstasy””