Mari Kasurinen – Poly Trick Pony

We talked to a girl who made Karl Lagerfeld into a pony. Here’s what happened.

“When we surround ourselves with things that are ‘personalized’ or ‘customized,’ what does it mean? Do we think that by that we can somehow exist more?” This is a question 28-year-old Finland native, Berlin-based pop artist Mari Kasurinen is asking through her art. One such manifestation is her ‘My Little Pop Icon’ series — sculptures that look just like ’80’s cult classic toy My Little Pony, made in the likeness of pop icons. The cute, strange collectibles are manifestations of Mari’s concern with ideas of materialism and of individualism. She is quite amazed that almost anything we choose to have customized can be made just so, to fit our tastes, needs and wants. From cellphone cases to credit cards, we can individualize ourselves til we’re blue in the face (or pink or green or purple). But what does it mean? Does it mean we exist more: to be what we individually are, and even more of ourselves?

In one such case of trying to answer this, Mari came up with a series of plastic horses, their identifying characteristics almost instantly recognizable as some of pop culture’s most prevalent icons.

Mari insists she’s not poking fun at these people, nor is she glorifying pop-icons from film, folklore and fashion. “They are designed as objective portraits.”  She also explains her use of the ponies: “I had to find a toy which provided a good basis for my work. I tried Barbies, Action Mans, He-Man dolls, tin soldiers, plastic animals… They didn’t fit. Then I found what I was looking for; My Little Ponies. They are so plain; some plastic and fake hair. They didn’t have a gender and the fact that I could transform a human character into pony form was really exciting; I had a lot of new nuances to play with. There were no boundaries.”

(Good thing My Little Donkey never came to be, or Mari might have made asses out of these people.)

“Today it’s very easy to get expensive stuff. It’s not enough anymore when you want to upgrade your status. Today a new competition has started; you have to know who you are and what you want. And you have to do it better, bigger and faster than anyone else.”

How does Mari do it? Mostly she lives in “the here and now.” Of course, being in your 20’s helps. It’s the best time to ask questions about everything without looking ignorant or rude. It’s that time where you should know better, but you shouldn’t know everything. Mari is asking questions about pop culture and media in its many forms — movies, books, fashion — and its effect on our everyday life. “I want to understand, question, point out and experience” she says. “And also, enjoy a bag of candy and a good movie from time to time.”

We think that’s a very good idea.

Read our Q&A . That’s a good idea too.

Why do you turn pop culture icons into ponies?
I had a great urge to modify, to transform something. I found out that you can get even toys customized.  You can decide what your child should play with. Play is a child’s way to explore and understand the world around us. Through play they learn how to live and act in it as individuals. When parents get to decide and design their children’s toys which are their mediums in play, the influence is inevitable. That is why I chose toys.

At this point my interest in popular culture kicked in; I wanted to work with Pop-icons. These famous icons are presented to us as examples, ideals, even as authorities.  I wanted to combine this great urge which we have about our own private identity with the identities of pop-icons, who are more of a phenomenon than they are real, private persons.

What was your favorite toy as a child?
My 30-cm-tall Batman doll. I still have it.

What do you love about fashion?
I love how accurately fashion can describe its time. In good and in bad.

What do you love about art?
How art makes all the sense and no sense at all at the same time. It’s something that comes, or at least should come, from deep within. Both making it and experiencing it. Art is one of the  few ways left to experience true beauty.

What do you love about your job?
The nature of it – how it sets you free and how it captures you.  My little brother still asks me when I’m going to get a real job instead of being an artist.

How do you come up with your ideas?
By living in this world. By going out, opening the TV or watching a movie. Or reading a book. Or listening to music, new or old. By getting angry or happy or sad. You have to be vulnerable and open. Then the ideas will slap you in the face.

Does Karl Lagerfeld know you made him into a pony?
I think he does. And I think he likes it because he hasn’t contacted me at all.

Any other pony victims in the near future?
Plenty! The best way to find out is to visit my website: www.marikasurinen.com or join my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter.

Besides ponies, what other kinds of art do you work on or interest you?
I get interested and excited if emotions are stirred up in me. I’d love to paint more and discover new materials and mediums. Materials that inspire, surprise and astound. At the moment I don’t have time for it but I’m hoping for that to change in the near future.

Something know one knows about you is…
When I was little I thought that Elvis Presley really was the king of America. My uncle, a devoted Elvis fan, told me so when I was three years old. I think I believed it to be true all the way until the first grade. I was really disappointed when I found out about the truth. I still am.

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