Does some art go too far?

A Danish artist is causing controversy after dressing her baby as evil 20th century figures including Saddam Hussein and Adolf Hitler.  

Have a look at the pictures here.

The artist Nina Kleivan said that she did it to emphasis that we all begin life the same. ‘We all have evil within us. Even small children are evil towards each other,” Kleivan told the Haaretz newspaper in Israel.

Whilst some have been confused about how to feel about the photographs many have been outraged.

CinnabarSweets tweets: @bmwodarski woman who dresses baby like Hitler. It’s just wrong.

Another person comments ‘This is so wrong on so many levels. Babies are helpless. Imagine that child growing up and seeing how her mother portrayed her as the personification of evil.’

But this blogger reasons that these are powerful images to drive an important message home.

And here someone comments, ‘I am glad there is outrage because it shows people still care. However, I think the outrage is misplaced. It is important to remind people just who these evil men were and why we consider them to be evil.’

Are these photographs a step too far?

35 Responses to “Does some art go too far?”

  1. March 17, 2010 at 11:35

    I definitely think that very often modern art goes too far indeed. Of course, I cannot say much of that art as I do not appreciate it that much. I think certain pieces of modern art can be prepared by everybody just with a little bit imagination. Not that complicated. Everybody can see in a modern picture whatsoever. However, to misuse modern art is far from fair. Young adults cannot distinguish very well often what is this art all about. Wrong signals and ideas are always possible.
    Kind regards

  2. 2 Cabe UK
    March 17, 2010 at 12:35

    *sigh*…. yes I suppose it does sometimes go too far but ultimately, it is only a ‘statement’ or a STIMUlation -“messenger” about the times we live in…. Just because people don’t like the ‘message’ it does not mean it is not saying anything –
    = ie: the unmade bed with dirty knickers/ the real human or cow frozen in perspex and cut in half/ real human organs and artery-systems that have been pumped with solifidying material and the rest of the body stripped away so that you just see a network of arteries/ the living Thalidamide model without arms, sitting on a plinth in London for a week before her bronze statue is erected etc… these can be quite scarey or shocking collisions with art but it cannot fail to make us think about it!
    =I sometimes think extremely modern artists live on another planet and have a completely alien mind-set to view the world as they do… and I am usually surprised that people DO understand what they are saying but that’s because the artists (and those that understand them) are probably before their time…. in 100 years their ‘art’ will be viewed as pioneering.
    I think we should rename modern art as Expressionist Terrorism…. ! (because it certainly does my head in !) 🙂

  3. 3 Meeta Rani
    March 17, 2010 at 12:36

    The Danish artist has gone too far. The idea of using a helpless baby when it is not even aware of what is done to her – is wrong. Whether her baby will be evil or not no one can say- but the mother has surely shown some signs already. She has assumed that the baby is her property (not another individual) and she can use it as she likes. This is so undemocratic, coming from Denmark.

  4. 4 audre
    March 17, 2010 at 12:43

    This is a difficult question. The “artist’s” message seems apt; the way she sends the message maybe not so apt.

    Antoaneta is right! Some of what we call modern art can be prepared by anyone. It requires no particular talent… just ideas of which we all have an abundance.

    Modern art seems more about having the nerve to call one’s self an artist. Apparently if you have audacity you can find followers and succeed. Martin Creed comes to mind: Lights going on and off in a bare room and crumbling bits of paper may be novel ideas but what is it other than ideas? If we accept ideas as art, we are buying the Emperor’s new Clothes and art should be redefined.

    Perhaps there should be a separate category for ideas art as opposed to performance art, where there is a genuine different innate talent.

  5. 5 @guykaks
    March 17, 2010 at 12:48

    Nina klevian is going nuts and failing to be a good mother.But we should remember that we shape the destiny of our chilren regardless.If that is what makes this artist happy and who she is, so be it and wish her well.

  6. 6 patti in cape coral
    March 17, 2010 at 13:04

    When I first saw the images the first thing I thought was that all these criminals were babies once, completely innocent. That’s something I don’t usually think about when I think of Hitler.

  7. 7 Cabe UK
    March 17, 2010 at 13:24

    Actually looking at the pics again – they are rather cute…. !

    Its the same chicken and egg story isn’t it – we’ve just flogged it to death on another WHYS blog – “is Happiness a natural state?”- and, to go one further – are we born ‘evil’ or not??? The Church says we are born with the ‘Original Sin’ of Adam and Eve – but that’s all!…
    Actually I believe the opposite of the artist and that we are NOT born ‘evil’ but that the capacity for evil is taught to us. That’s One of the reasons the Church makes us baptize our babes – to remind us to continue this child on the path of goodness…
    = Children’s personalities and attitudes are shaped in the first 7 years of life and then that’s it. Whatever values they have learnt in that time is stuck with them for life unless they go to great lengths to ‘unlearn’ it…. Ultimately these are just photos of a kid dressed in funny clothes and unless her mother makes her BEHAVE LIKE ‘Hitler’ – then this won’t harm her at all. The only harm that exists at the moment is what is in YOUR head !
    = Remember Everyone dresses their kids in the funny clothes of their culture. Can you say honestly that these same clothes do any less harm to your children than the clothes above – which by the way are not for ‘life’ but are just a temporary thing? Can you say your kids are not being laughed at or bullied because of their clothing, by other cutlures children? – Wouldn’t you say things like this would be more damaging than some artists 15 minutes of fame ????

  8. March 17, 2010 at 13:33

    A child is the personification of innocence, goodness and virtue. Representing a child in any other way is a sgn of warped thinking. Perhaps this artist wants to shock and jolt people into positive action. But this a strange way to do so!

  9. March 17, 2010 at 13:43

    Art used as a means to make moral comments has to have a degree of subtlety to work for me and I expect the rest of the public too, otherwise I just think, ” OK I know that, so what’s with this business of you telling me what I already understand?” If this artist had discovered some profundity that escaped the obvious her art might work. As it happens this ‘work of art’ deserves the response, ” So what?” And then it requires serious consideration about her lack of sensitivity to her own baby.

  10. 10 gary indiana
    March 17, 2010 at 14:01

    There are many works of art that cause no feelings in me what so ever; but none of them evoke anger or disgust with the artist. Graphic artists occasionally produce unpleasant images just as authors sometimes write unpleasant prose. So what? They are not reality, only reminders of it. In this particular case, it is well to remember babies do not die when dressed as Hitler; babies die when people fail to recognize a Hitler. The juxtaposition of absolute innocence and absolute guilt is an effective way of reminding us of this fact. Fear no art.

    ps: All art was modern in its time.

  11. 11 T
    March 17, 2010 at 14:10

    In one sense, no. The capitalist could say, as long as someone is willing to pay you for it, it’s art.

    But in the broader sense, there has to be some limit placed on it. Is that “censorship”? Maybe. Then again, we’re not in an ideal world where all artists have respect and can make a decent living.

  12. 12 Dennis Junior
    March 17, 2010 at 14:24

    In this case among others, but, This lady’s art work in the fashion that is being reported about is taking it so far from the norms of taste…Although, she has the right to expressed herself.

    (Dennis Junior)

  13. 13 Ronald Almeida
    March 17, 2010 at 14:55

    What good is art that doesn’t go too far and just remains mediocre? Good and bad is only a point of view. Mass opinion, mass art is for sheep not for intelligent humans.

  14. 14 Dennis Junior
    March 17, 2010 at 14:59

    The tweets in the text that was

    I am in complete and full support of there opinions since, it raises ‘fear’ of having another crisis in the world such as with the one of Mohammed and the ‘picture’ of him in Swedish & other newspapers…..

    *Dennis Junior*

  15. 15 Wii Mii
    March 17, 2010 at 15:01

    To be honest the pictures as such do not cause me much discomfort when looking at them, but what does bother me is that they are called art. It is nothing more than a mother taking pictures of her baby in clothes to look like evil people from the past – not quite sure why one would do that???

    Is there no other way to express yourself anymore? To be an artist you don’t need to have any talents – all you need is someone to believe the nonsese you interpret into one of your objects, be it a tea pot or a coke can or in this case some weird pictures. (Quite irresponsible acctually from the mother to expose her own child to such a media frenzy).

  16. 16 T
    March 17, 2010 at 16:10

    For the answer to this, keep in mind Paxman and the Blue Rabbit :)!

  17. 17 Ibrahim in UK
    March 17, 2010 at 16:21

    In terms of art, there is nothing that goes too far as long as it does not break any laws. The beauty of art is that it can be interepreted in many ways. So it could be that we were all born with a little evil, or that all evil people were originally cute sinless angelic babies, and brings up that time-travel moral dilemma: if you travelled back in history to when Hitler was a baby (just like one of the pictures), would you take his life? Or it could just be a mother trying to be funny and clever by putting a costume on her baby.
    In terms of parenting, it’s probably irresponsible to expose and use your child in that manner as an object or gallery ceterpiece. Will he forever be known as the “hitler baby”? Then again, is there much difference between using your child for art and using him in a TV commercial? (aside from the difference in tone of association).

  18. 18 John in Salem
    March 17, 2010 at 16:41

    I thought it was a novel way of examining the nature of the sociopath and no more exploitive than the photographer Geddes dressing babies up to look like bugs or flowers. If art doesn’t make you think or feel something then what’s the point?

  19. 19 nora
    March 17, 2010 at 17:03

    As an artist, I always enjoy art being equated with sin. Gives me an extra kick when I whip out the sumi brush.

    Homegirl photographer is having her own kind of post-partum meditation on parenting and society. Hitler was a baby who was raised in a Germany that had taken books on how to control your serfs and adapted them to childrearing techniques. She reminded me of this, is that bad?

  20. March 17, 2010 at 17:46

    I’m afraid I shall have to join the ranks of the confused over this one.To me the photo’s look like a baby dressed up,ie.Barbie type doll.We are all born with a blank sheet that gets filled up over the years,we have the pontential for good and evil,one is not born either way.You become one way or the other through trauma,teachings,misunderstood learnings or confused thinking.

  21. 21 viola
    March 17, 2010 at 19:16

    I’ve noticed that “going too far” is too far only if the artist’s vision offends me. This one doesn’t. It expresses a valid concept of the potential for evil that the power of choice gives everyone.

  22. 22 Thomas Murray
    March 17, 2010 at 19:51

    Sure art can go too far. Artwork involving the deliberate deaths of its subjects and the sexual exploitation of children come to mind as strictly taboo.

    But Nina Kleivan’s portraits are just playfully cute. Though I’m over it now, my parents took pictures of me as a naked baby that later mortified me when I was a teenager. So it depends on the cultural context, I guess.

    Two Christmases ago, a popular comic strip here in the states, “Pearls Before Swine,” depicted an alligator disguised as the baby Jesus so he could ambush, murder and eat an unsuspecting zebra. It was hysterical. But if turned another way, it would’ve gotten the artist a death sentence in The Muslim world.

    My only objection to Ms. Kleivan’s work is that I don’t consider Mao Zedong evil. He was a historically necessary for China, rather like Lucius Brutus was to the Roman Republic, or Napoleon to France, or Vladimir Lenin to Russia.

    So it’s all really in the mind of the beholder. Stateside, the saying goes, “Don’t like the program? You’re free to change the channel.”

    –Louisville, Kentucky, US.

  23. 23 Clamdip
    March 17, 2010 at 22:08

    I think in this artist’s case she is making the point that the “Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!” If art gets you to think about the human condition isn’t that a good thing? Shouldn’t parents and society be a little more introspective and critical when raising the next generation of children? I think she makes a good point.
    I don’t find her choice of medium shocking but what I do find shocking is parents who stoke their selfish addictions. When you have children you should grow up and out of that stoner phase. Selfishness, that’s what I find shocking.

  24. 24 Clamdip
    March 17, 2010 at 22:14

    Cabe UK,
    Thanks for the laugh your comment gave me. You forgot to mention that the human bodies were murdered Chinese
    dissidents or innocent students who thought they had freedom to express themselves.

    • 25 viola
      March 18, 2010 at 16:57

      They did have freedom to express themselves and did. You can never enslave free people–the most you can do is kill them. Unfortunately, some do not understand the risk. Those who do and still take the risk are heroic.

  25. 26 T
    March 17, 2010 at 22:22

    Instead, rephrase the question. Does the response to some art go too far? It’s amazing to me that some rich and powerful people in society will say unchecked capitalism is perfectly ok. Yet, because I’m rich and powerful I have the right to dictate to society what’s “art” and what isn’t? I totally disagree with that.

  26. 27 Cabe UK
    March 18, 2010 at 13:14

    @ Clamdip…

    Clamdip – I don’t know where the ‘bodies’ were from – probably convicts from a third world country ??? – and I don’t know mainly because I myself find ‘art’ like that scarey and repellant (as hinted to in my pervious comment) so I don’t bother to find out all the details about it.

    There is a European artist (I’m not sure I think he may be german / Austrian etc) who has a human ‘body’ show that he takes around the world showing them off and all frozen in ? whatever = perspex / some sort of funerary fluid ?? and cut in half etc, etc
    …. um… you could send your comments to him?…. 🙂

  27. 28 Subhash C Mehta
    March 18, 2010 at 14:30

    Yes; it is a step too far and faltered. Why try this gimmick on small kids? because they can’t sue you in the court of law; Just try doing it on some rich & powerful people/personalities i.e. try it on some top political leaders and film actors and see what happens.

  28. 29 angelica adams
    March 18, 2010 at 23:25

    Evil is not art Evil seeks to destroy the good in the world and corrupts innocence Why then would a mother adorn her child with symbols of evil? I would suggest that this woman look at photos and films of what happened to victims of Hitler’s dream of empire Hitler was an artist but he did not pursue a career in art because he did not have any real talent as an artist Art celebrates life but dictators only want to destroy life

  29. 30 angelica adams
    March 18, 2010 at 23:58

    What would the Bard have to say about art that goes too far? “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” Wm Shakespeare

  30. 31 Cabe UK
    March 19, 2010 at 12:26

    Nina Kleivan has not really done anything ‘bad’ – if she had not said what those clothes represented then no one would have been the wiser would they?? These are just pics of a cute kid in funny clothes! ?

    But since she HAS underlined them with an ‘idea’ – then whatever takes root in your minds is down to you…. – cute, irresponsible, bad, ‘evil’ ??
    These are Your thoughts alone. Your thoughts do not make the child or the mother ‘evil’ it only makes You experience ‘evil’ in your own head… This has stopped you from thinking about what she is actually trying to speak to you about which is … um, let me see now…. what is she trying to tell me… – you know, I really don’t know because I have been listening to all your negative comments about the wrong thing?

    Its a big shame but people either just don’t or won’t pay attention to any message going on around them?

  31. 32 audre
    March 19, 2010 at 16:00

    @Cabe UK

    What are those messages to which we are not paying attention?

  32. 33 oablo s
    March 19, 2010 at 18:09

    Where is Polpot and Hirohito.
    All these people were children before they were monsters!

  33. March 19, 2010 at 18:18

    @patti in cape coral says:
    “When I first saw the images the first thing I thought was that all these criminals were babies once, completely innocent. That’s something I don’t usually think about when I think of Hitler.”

    I think that’s the crux of the whole issue too, myself! We all started out the same way, so what will your path be?…

    People have always been unwilling to “humanize” the great evil people of history– because if you acknowledge that Hitler/Mussolini/Stalin/etc. was once a helpless innocent baby just like you, and loved his dog, and loved art, etc. then you acknowledge that his is the same species as you. And by extension, this means acknowledging you have the same capacity for evil yourself. As a human being, that sinless little grub in diapers has every bit the same potential to someday wreak havoc on humanity as any other. It can be tough for anyone to admit to themselves. But I don’t think it’s in poor taste for an artist to point it out.

    Of course, you could also just treat this installation as pictures of a baby in a funny costume, like Anne Geddes’s work. Personally, I find Geddes’s fruit-cosplaying kids a lot creepier than Kleivan’s mini-dictators. And this installation is no more exploitative than Geddes, OR, say, the media’s use of women’s bodies to sell products.

  34. 35 Cabe UK
    March 19, 2010 at 19:39

    @ Audre

    Hi Audre …. its not paying attention to what the artist is saying via the ‘art’ not what she herself is ‘doing’ in how she composes it ?


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