“Innocent Minds” College project

5 08 2010

 “Protection”, mixed media.

 “Danger”, mixed media.


The catalyst, rather than inspiration, for this diptych was the sculpture by the Chapman Brothers, “Zygotic acceleration biogenetic de-sublimated libidi”. That piece seems to be about, as the title would suggest, the proliferation of wanton reproduction due to the rampant collective libido of modern society.  

What’s arresting and troubling about the piece is that it clearly depicts children engaging in what looks like a genetically engineered orgy, with fused limbs and misplaced genitalia. It seems to suggest that children are not just the result of reproduction but are also engaging in it; becoming a kind of grotesque self-perpetuating organism.


The Chapman Brothers’ Zygotic acceleration biogenetic de-sublimated libidi, 1995


The reason why this acted as more of a catalyst to my own work, rather than an inspiration, is because on first seeing it I felt compelled to create my own response to the subjects it addresses rather than draw directly on the content of the piece itself.   

My broad interpretation of this issue was how children are viewed and treated both in society and by the media. Generally speaking, popular culture has become more ‘eroticised’ and sexually orientated. Increasingly with television, music videos and films, those involved are expected to be sexual commodities and when children are brought into the picture they too must take on these roles. Combine this factor with a society that has a heightened awareness of, and vigilance towards, paedophilia and other threats to children – as well as the general need of parents and other family members to protect their offspring – and it leads to a very morally ambiguous state of affairs.

My response then is a dual one, hence the diptych format. The first piece, “Protection” depicts a child that is almost incarcerated; surrounded by a frame and barriers of protection. Across the featureless face of the child is a kind of mesh that subtly separates the subject from the viewer. It commands us to observe but to keep our distance. This is a sort of sanitised interpretation of child protection. The image is clear, clean and geometrically apportioned and the frame could be seen as that of a television screen, i.e. this is how we allow our children to viewed by the world; the acceptable side of child exploitation if you will. The fact that the face has no features gives us no indication as to whether the subject is happy, sad, scared or bored and in fact removes any emotional element whatsoever. There is no subjectivity. It is purely an objectification; a process adhered to when a child is portrayed by the media as a commercial commodity.

With “Danger”, I was trying to depict the vulnerabilities of childhood and the very real threats that exist in the world but as represented by the media. The ‘danger’ in question is overstated and exaggerated, attempting to create the sense of paranoia and fear for our children’s safety that is so often exploited, particularly by the tabloid press. Here the child is being invaded by grubby marks of red and black representing danger and even death. The barriers have been penetrated and started to crumble; the subject is beginning to disintegrate, decay and fade from view. There are coils of metal wiring that show how the protective wall has been torn aside by the hands of some malevolent force. In direct contrast with “Protection”, this separation of viewer and subject no longer exists, which almost makes us, as the viewer, complicit in the attack.

This is pertinent, as I believe we are complicit in the general atmosphere of paranoia and fear surrounding our children’s safety. We have an understandable interest in the crimes that affect children but the media also exploits our desire for exhaustive and extensive coverage of these crimes. This inevitably leads to needless and dangerous speculation, which in turn creates an unrealistic sense of the threat to our children within society.

This attitude to children only serves to lend them no voice, no real say or stake in society in terms of how they should be treated. Of course, they need safe and secure directions toward adulthood, but in the meantime children also need to be treated like individuals rather than a sub-section of society. If we remove the exaggerated impression of vulnerability that is blanketed across the younger generations in general, then we would actually make them less vulnerable in the eyes of predators and deviants. Simply put, if something is represented as an object, that is exactly how they will be treated.

I hope that in some way this piece serves to expose these issues and raises some important questions.