March 17, 2010

Photographs of a baby girl dressed up as Hitler, Idi Amin, Mussolini, Mao, Stalin, and Pinochet.

It's the work of Norwegian-Danish artist Nina Maria Kleivan:
Kleivan said she was inspired to begin sewing infant-sized costumes soon after the birth of her daughter, who is now 11 years old. She said complications from her pregnancy had left her and the baby sitting at home. Looking at her daughter, she recalled, she considered that each human life begins as a blank slate, with opportunity to do good or evil....

Her husband was supportive -- until he spotted a tiny swastika armband.

"'I'm aware that you're an artist, but this is wrong,' he told me," Kleivan recalled him saying. "I've pondered that a lot myself: Could I really do this? I agree it's on the verge, especially Hitler, whom I and most others view as the incarnation of evil. He and Stalin were the hardest to do. It hurt."
Yeah, Hitler. That's when you went to far. Or does the problem go back to that time when you were home, postpartum, and gazing at the infant set off ideation about evil.

The baby's name is Faustina — the feminine version of Faust (who sold his soul to the devil).

58 comments:

El Pollo Real said...

I'm surprised she didn't dress the poor kid up as George Bush.

Scandinavian navel gazer

Synova said...

People need a sense of humor.

I don't know and couldn't say if her art is effective. I suspect it's not.

But the idea of the child as a blank slate and that all of these terrible monsters were babies once, that's pretty neat.

It's a costume. Even if it's not quite as cute as all of whats-her-face's baby vegetable and flower photos.

No doubt a lot of people are offended for the child's dignity, but there are people who get their panties all wadded up over the baby vegetable pictures and dogs wearing clothes, too.

Sea Urchin said...

Some of those costumes -- say, of the dictators who are not as seared into public consciousness as Stalin and Hilter and who are not therefore as recognizeable -- are pretty cute. I liked the Mao one. (Though definitely not approving of Mao, you know, in general.) My reaction to the pictures is probably colored by the fact that the baby is actually adorable on her ownsome.

It kind of reminds me of this halloween costume. Some people look at babies and see little dictators, some see chest-bursting aliens.

Bob Ellison said...

I guess Synova is trying a hand at parody.

These photographs will follow the child all her life. Everyone will know that a psycho dressed her up as various mass murderers before she was old enough to speak.

Some people are too artistic to be trusted with toasters, let alone offspring.

mesquito said...

This being Scandinavia, she probably gets a pretty sweet state grant to do this.

And health care!

Beth said...

Synova, just for you: a palate cleanser, the many stylings of Sugar Bush Squirrel.

Trooper York said...

Now this is no where as bad as when Richard Gere would have his birthday party and dress up his gerbil!

Not that there's anything wrong with that but it is kind of disturbing.

david7134 said...

I would be careful in being critical of totalitarian dictators. You may be placed on a list.

LarsPorsena said...

Since she's Norwegian, how about a baby Vidkun Quisling?

From Inwood said...

Godwin's law has a corollary re art!

Bob_R said...

Thinking that babies are a blank slate is the scientific equivalent of thinking that the world is 5000 years old.... Except for the fact that the blank slate stuff gets taught in schools.

Class factotum said...

Where are the Fidel and Che costumes?

Bob_R said...

She's a damned good seamstress, though.

Dick Stanley said...

Where's the Saudi King Abdullah costume? Not to mention OBL. Oh, right.

ironrailsironweights said...

Now this is no where as bad as when Richard Gere would have his birthday party and dress up his gerbil!

At least he didn't use the gerbil in, you know, that improper sense. Though in fairness it should be noted that "gerbilling" may be an urban legend. Pity.

Peter

Youngblood said...

Bob Ellison wrote:

"These photographs will follow the child all her life. Everyone will know that a psycho dressed her up as various mass murderers before she was old enough to speak."

No, the photos won't follow this girl her whole life. Even if they do, nobody's going to assume that they represent any kind of [i]tribute[/i] to the horrific monsters referenced in the photographs.

I also don't really see the psycho part at all. The obvious read is that even the most terrible people were babies once, but from there things get complicated and interpretations are going to differ depending on what you bring to the table. Was baby Hitler destined to grow up to become a brutal dictator? Was baby Saddam a blank slate influenced by his upbringing, or was his evil something that was in him all along? The infamy of individuals like Stalin and Mao is so enormous that they have become superhuman and legendary in a way, but they were people who soiled their diapers and spit up mother's milk, like the rest of us.

There's nothing psychotic about any of that.

Matt K Cassens said...

It would seem to me to go beyond cuteness and crossing the line into dehumanizing. Dressing up pets is one thing...

I'm reminded of a very unsuccessful ad campaign from the late '80's/early 90's (I forget the product) in which children were depicted as "the ultimate pet." The woman in your story appears to be suffering from the same delusion.

MnMark said...

I hope I live to see the day when innovative artists strive to put their talents towards creating great beauty that uplifts the soul. I am so very tired of this era when any bored, grumbling freak who wants to call him/herself an "artist" can dream up some way of taking something that evokes tenderness or romance or spirituality or innocence and combining it with something really ugly and degrading in order to "make us think". E.g, crucifixes in urine, posed, plasticized, skinned bodies - or innocent baby girls dressed up like the worst mass murderers in history.

I want to live to see the day when the person who would make something like that would not only be ignored by society in general, but would seriously be considered for admission to a mental hospital as someone who is obviously disturbed and in need of help.

This trend never seems to end and it seems to get worse and worse as our ability to be shocked is worn out and they have to resort to more and more shocking juxtapositions in order to get attention. Now it's living baby girl in Nazi uniforms. When that's old hat, what's next? Skinned, plasticized baby girl fetuses in Nazi uniforms?

Chip Ahoy said...

Aw bless.

Trooper York said...

Yeah I was just kidding. Those aren't even gerbils. They are guinea pigs.

But still that baby is no where as disturbing as
a real guinea pig!

Youngblood said...

Dick Stanley wrote:

"Where's the Saudi King Abdullah costume? Not to mention OBL. Oh, right."

The infant in the photographs is 11-years old now. September 11th hadn't happened when the photographs were taken, so Bin Laden's notoriety was a great deal lower than it is now. King Abdullah wasn't the king of Saudi Arabia at that point, and wouldn't be for several years.

Andrea said...

And to think some of us thought our parents showing people our naked baby pictures was bad. I can't wait for the kid's prospective in-laws to visit:

Crazy "Artist" Mom: "And here's a picture of her when I dressed her up in her Hitler costume! Oooh, look at her little swastika armband!"

Mortified Daughter: "Mom! You promised!"

No-longer-prospective Mother-in-law, to husband: "Honey, let's go now."

William said...

I'm so sick of seeing babies dressed up as Gandhi. This is a refreshing change of pace.

Bob Ellison said...

Youngblood, you have no idea. The pics of me as the love-child of your love-child's love-child still cover my walls! (Does anyone have a suggestion for how to re-stick wallpaper?)

Seriously, your response was stupid. The woman's a psycho.

David said...

"each human life begins as a blank slate, with opportunity to do good or evil...."

Or really, really crass and stupid.

traditionalguy said...

So now we see the stigmatizing of babies as more new cult leader type mass murderers. How modern. That is the only successful pro abortion image that I have ever seen. Norwegians do have a long history under German hegemony, and they did well as a Nazi occupied land until Germany surrendered.

Youngblood said...

Bob,

What was stupid, exactly?

Are you saying that it's stupid to reflect upon the origins of evil, or that it's stupid to create art that's pretty clearly and obviously intended to provoke that kind of reflection?

bearing said...

Faustina is also a Catholic saint's name. St. Faustina was canonized by Pope John Paul II. She was a Polish nun and visionary whose writings led to the popularization of the Divine Mercy devotion in modern times.

Personally I think it's a very hip name, but I like out-there names.

Andrea said...

You know, the whole "those evil monsters were once innocent widdle babies once, oh the huge manatee!" sentiment is such a cliché that even Little Nell is barfing from her imaginary grave. Well DUH they were babies once -- so what?

chuck b. said...

Oh good lord.

I'm with Synova.

It's somewhat interesting.

Paul said...

The purpose of art is to remind us that artists will do anything to get attention. I don't need any more reminding, thank you.

fivewheels said...

The Onion is always first.
Anne Geddes starting to lose it

So much for her brilliant artistic creativity and originality...

Lyle said...

There's nothing wrong this. In fact, the artist makes a great point... even Hitler was once a little baby who was much loved.

More people should dress up as Hitler for Halloween really. Same as when people dress up as Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden, or that evil Bush. :)

Oligonicella said...

Another 'nartist.

Michael McNeil said...

To really get put on a list, do her as Mohammed — particularly with a bomb turban, though just representing a female as Mohammed might be enough.

Paul said...

William said...I'm so sick of seeing babies dressed up as Gandhi. This is a refreshing change of pace.

Excellent!

Methadras said...

Oligonicella said...

Another 'nartist.


Tardist.

Penny said...

The article title says that the mom did this "for a show on evil", which translates to me, at least, as an art show with "Evil" as the theme. In that context, I think her art is extremely effective.

Baby as a symbol of Evil?

Of course not! No one looks at a baby and thinks "evil", and no one would look at these photographs without FIRST seeing that adorable baby.

Damn, Ms. Kleivan. That was a clever idea, even BEFORE you dressed your daughter as Hitler, which frankly, was the ONE necessary costume to put all the other costumes in their proper context.

After that? She had our minds going wild with the possibilities of all this might mean.

Bravo!

Penny said...

One other comment about this artist...

She might have been "at home" after complications of pregnancy for her and her daughter, but she never let that get in the way of doing impressive work with the things at hand - her mind and her baby, and skills previously learned - sewing and photography.

Doing GOOD there, Ms. Kleivan.

Andrea said...

"Baby as a symbol of Evil?

Of course not! No one looks at a baby and thinks 'evil', and no one would look at these photographs without FIRST seeing that adorable baby."

Speak for yourself. Have you noticed how a woman with one of these shrieking hellspawn never seems to really be aware that the sounds her infant is making is drowning out aircraft and shattering glass? That's the power of pure evil right there.

Babies. ::brrrr::

Penny said...

Hm? Now that you mention it? ;)

Penny said...

Course that's the beauty of a photograph. You see what the photographer WANTS you to see.

flenser said...

No one looks at a baby and thinks 'evil'


Babies do tend to look like Winston Churchill. If you are one of those sorts who think that Churchill was an imperialist reactionary warmonger, the word "evil" might pop into your mind.

kentuckyliz said...

Churchill is a hero.

I think of St Faustina, too. I have read Divine Mercy in my Soul, I have an icon image of the Divine Mercy, and a Divine Mercy rosary with clear and red beads and the image as te centerpiece. I promote the chaplet of divine mercy and like singing it, traditional or contemporary. Some friends and I help others prepare for the Feast of Mercy (Second Sunday of Easter) with a novena (9 day reflection/prayer cycle). We also distribute pamphlets encouraging people to extend mercy to others by having mercy in their hearts and doing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.

It really is awesome how this whole spirituality burst forth in Krakow right before the war and the hate and the death...Faustina had premonitions of these things coming.

Part of the whole amazing outburst of Polish holiness in the 20th century.

Pogo said...

I suppose it was too hard to dress the baby up as George Lucas directing the Star Wars I-III dreck.
Pure cinematic evil.

An infant Howard Zinn or Noam Chomsky were probably too obscure. Although baby Nancy Pelosi would be recognizable, you'd probably have to use tape to bug out the eyes enough, though.

Fred4Pres said...

I am not offended by this. Art? A one liner perhaps. I am not sure it is that effective other than reminding us those monsters were at one time little babies too.

Pinochet was bad but hardly in the same league as the others. Although given skewed politics in Europe and Norway, where is George Bush? Obama won the peace prize for not being Bush.

The Mussolini baby should be on the cover of Glenn Beck's next book.

Fred4Pres said...

I once in my twenties bought a little charlie manson tie-dyed shirt in Haight Ashbery that I gave to a friend who just had a baby. The little manson heads were done Che' style and not immediately reconizable over the back ground. But they were still not really into it (imagine that).

I would definitely not offer such a gift now and would never dress my own kids like that. But hey, I was young and stupid.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Pinochet was bad but hardly in the same league as the others.

Hell when you look at the body count of Stalin and Mao, Hitler is a piker. Then you have Pol Pot who on a per capita basis outdid all three of them combined but since the latter three were communists, they tend to get a pass from liberals. What's a few million dead to achieve the proletarian paradise.

I think the number who died under Pinochet's regime was around 3000. I guess the reason he arouses more anger in leftists than say Stalin or that other great philosopher Mao, is that one death is a tragedy and a million is a statistic.

Hoosier Daddy said...

One other point that should be made is that with government funded health care she was able to pursue her artistic side rather than, you know, get a job.

Tibore said...

Well, at least the artist did clearly label those dictators as evil. Nowadays, I wouldn't be surprised if some artist came along trying to rehabilitate those old bastards. Heaven knows someone out there is thinking exactly that. At least this artist wasn't, and was willing to paint Hitler, Stalin, etc. by their rightful description.

Michael said...

I love modern art. It is a magnet for fools and those without talent, particularly in art.

Oligonicella said...

Methadras -- They're synonyms.

Kirk Parker said...

I'm with Synova and (especially) Youngblood here. Oh, except that I completely part company w/S. regarding Anne Geddes whose baby+flower/vegetable pictures I think are creepy as all get-out.

wv - "astoriti" - Italian fans of John Jacob Astor.

rhhardin said...

God made babies small and weak precisely to limit the damage they could do.

knox said...

Not worthy of outrage? I suppose not. But not too interesting either.

Rises to the level of Inappropriate Halloween Costume more than Art.

Youngblood said...

Andrea wrote:

"Crazy 'Artist' Mom: 'And here's a picture of her when I dressed her up in her Hitler costume! Oooh, look at her little swastika armband!'"

Considering the fact that Kleivan's father spent time in a Nazi prison camp due to his involvement in the Norwegian resistance, I don't think that she'd be talking about cute widdle swastika armbands.

"Well DUH they were babies once -- so what?"

Well, I answered this above, but I will reiterate it now:

The obvious read here is that even history's most brutal monsters were babies once, but beyond that, the interpretation really depends on what the viewer brings to the table.

Was baby Hitler destined to become a brutal dictator? Was Saddam's evil something that was present, but apparently undetectable, at birth? Or was he a product of a specific set of personal and historical circumstances? Can anybody become a monster, or does the capacity for evil in some people exist at birth?

Although I have my own strong opinions on the subject, I'm not certain what the answers to those questions actually are. I certainly don't object to the questions being raised.

ken in sc said...

I think the artist has a good point. We are accustomed to saying that anyone can grow up to be president. We don’t like to think about the fact that anyone could grow up to be a Hitler as well. As others have mentioned,all of these world-class tyrants and dictators were once cute, adorable, babies. Also, I do not agree that we are born as blank slates. You do not have to teach children how to hit, bite, grab, or lie. They do these things without any teaching what so ever. You have to teach them to be fair, share, take turns, and play nice. We are always only one generation away from barbarism. I think that is a point worth making in art.

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