Assa Kauppi, “In Search of a Winner”

Stockholm, 16.2–17.3  2013

Assa Kauppi broke through in 2011 with her sculpture ‘The Race is Over’, a bronze suite portraying seven children on the starting blocks a moment before a swim race. The childrens’ peculiarities reveal their individual conditions – and their chances to win the race and to get through life. Assa Kauppi is now back with new works in her exhibition ‘In Search of a Winner’, founded on a journey across the United States during which Kauppi closely documented beauty pageants for children.

Competition is a recurring theme in the artistic narrative of Assa Kauppi. She is fascinated by constant competition, a sign of our times, where life itself has become a competition in which we constantly crown new winners and losers. In the sculpture group ‘Bred for Beauty’, we find three realistic babies with ruffled skirts and false eyelashes, each resting heavily on a podium. In third place we find the loser – the lifelike baby, its cradle a podium. The group embodies the consequences of the chase for beauty: it places the value of the child in its body. Kauppi says: “There is almost a promise of violence in the word chase. It’s probably why I use it. The quest for beauty often leads to a sort of self-violence, and the word chase also bears the promise of reward.”

The child as motif and symbol characterizes Assa Kauppi’s imagery. The child is transparent, making any expression easier to read. In a child, the physical ability to camouflage emotions is not yet mastered. While “The Race is Over’ dealt with the unique conditions of each individual, Kauppi’s new work carries a more pronounced social criticism. Beauty pageants are teaching not only children to invest in unrealistic attributes, but adults as well. When the ideal woman of our time is a 7-year-old girl – androgynous and harmless, made-up and dressed-up – no woman can fit into its definition. Kauppi’s experiences from the United States are both fascinating and frightening. There, she sees a society stating that everyone has the opportunity to be a winner if you just fight for it, yet for most people there, the road is endless, with numerous pitfalls and no safety net.

Assa Kauppi, born 1977, lives and works in Stockholm, Sweden. She graduated from the Royal Art Academy in Stockholm in 2011, while embarking on the collaboration with Galleri Andersson/Sandström. Since then, her sculptures have been touring, but have also been permanently placed as public art. In 2012, she participated in a large group exhibition at MOCAK, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Kraków, Poland. Her break-through work ’The Race is Over’ is currently exhibited at Hållplats Konst in Gävle, Sweden.