In Jan Miense Molenaer’s “The Smoker” from the 1620′s, viewers have an up-close regard on merrymakers, where children are inserted as metaphors for adult behavior. There is a capturing of the spirit of the figures through actions and facial expressions.The energy and high spirits of children allowed adults to delight in the escapades; children will be children and boys will be boys. The children in Molenaer’s work seem to involve themselves readily in behavior typically constructed around adult sinners: puffing, boozing, gambling, carousing, skirt-chasing, and and a bit of rough and tough. The girl may follow through on her intention to smack her neighbor with the footwear she grips. It all suggests that this extreme behavior, caricaturized as it is, in obvious mocking poses, uses the incongruity of children to pass a message to adults that touched directly on issues relevant to the grown-up world.
The use of children as reflections of adult behavior went further back before Molenaar, at least to the sixteenth-century when Pieter Bruegel cast a regard on adult madness in Children’s Games. In addition to Molenaar, Jan Steen also used the motif based on the common conception that children will tend to copy, even parrot, the social patterns of their elders, which became a common theme for Dutch and Flemish artists of the Golden Age.Even then, underneath the shiny innocence of the child lay a darker side…
Depictions of children, are often obscure and more complex than most viewers are ready to admit. They are not so much about innocence as they are about the techniques we use to manufacture innocence and project it. For innocence is a human creation; a narrative we tell about ourselves, not something we actually are.Its a process of being without arriving anywhere, a for of disavowal through a mediated image. While we often think of innocence as a given;a state of refelction as infants and that vanishes as we grow older:this view is a relatively recent one, largely a product of the nineteenth century, which fostered a sentimental cult of the child as a defense against taboos such as incest and other forms of abuse.
So,its evident that using children as the subject of art work is not a modern phenomenon; even the contradictory qualities of fascination and disquiet have been elaborated before, albeit less graphically, though it appears that art involving the manipulation of young children seems more prevalent today which has brought up the issue of a child’s rights, ethics etc. An example is the photo blog, “While The Baby Sleeps” by a mother from Finland,Adele Enersen who poses her newborn in various imaginary landscapes.
More reflective of the more obscure corners of our culture is what rubs against the grain of shock, memory; the Baudelaire and Walter Benjamin conception that survival within a capitalist society is barely attained if not a shock reception, which has to be mediated:
Saftich: “And so Baudelaire introduced experience in terms of shock as the heart of his artistic endeavor. More so, it was he who learned to parry the blows, enabling existence for himself and others despite the earthquake cancelling out that possibility. Thus, Benjamin arrived at the conclusion of the people’s loss of experience in a highly developed society as well as the substitution of that lost experience by shock reception. In modern society, in other words, the increasing number of blows in place of individual defense mechanisms, there has raised a series of mechanical replacements that, although they shield us partially, also strip us of the possibility to understand and assimilate that which is really happening. In that sense, media also acts as an anesthetic against the blow of novelty, Grlic writes: If shock can be accepted, experience will occur after all. However, as consciousness is mostly preoccupied with defending against the blow, repulsion of stress, experience related material is suppressed into the unconsciousness. Experiences lived through allow us to rationally elaborate life’s shocks and defend our consciousness from their attack and deeper permeation. In that sense, experience is simply the immediate result of shock, lacking any medium:
this is the case of Baudelaire who repeatedly experiences blows caused by the passing masses, the lights of the metropolis and other situations typical for the life of a modern city. The philosophical and esthetic value of Baudelaire’s poetry lays the fact that he eled the experience of shock reception to an esthetic principle.( Saftich )
Read More:http://www.caans-acaen.ca/Journal/issues_online/Issue%20XXVIII_2007/Schiller2007.pdf a
The concept of experience, as the reception of a blow, notes Grlic, is what Benjamin tried to render plausible through one of Freud’s hypotheses: consciousness’ primary function is not accepting stimuli, but attaining protection from stimuli. Accepting Freud’s differentiation between unconscious memory and the conscious act of recollecting, Benjamin, as interpreted by Baudelaire, bestows a special place to the thesis that full consciousness and abandoning traces of memory are abhorrent, as well as the claim that consciousness’ primary function is the organism’s defense against blows, shocks from the external surroundings. It is then, when the consciousness is no longer able to process the shock, the creation of traumatic symbols arises. And what saves man within modern society, as we have witnessed, is a continuation of the series of mechanic substitutes which protect us, even if only partially.( Saftich )
Alex Bogusky:But shades of grey don’t exist in our society’s decision to allow millions to be spent targeting an audience that is literally and physiologically incapable of protecting and defending themselves from a message probably doesn’t have their very best interest at heart. It’s not a matter of the rightness or wrongness of the products being advertised. That is a grey area. But there are children and there are adults. And the duty of adults in society is to protect it’s children. And that is black and white. Read More: http://www.psfk.com/2010/06/alex-bogusky-the-first-cannes-lion-for-not-advertising-at-all.html a
Richard Helpern:To be more specific: the “potentially disturbing” materials Rockwell offers to view are often sexual in nature, even perverse. Oddly, when I have run this thesis by friends and acquaintances, some have found the idea completely outlandish and dismissed it instantly, and others have found it so obviously true as hardly to merit discussion. Reactions were about evenly divided between “You’re crazy!” and “Of course!—so what else is new?” Artistic merit is always debatable, but more interesting, I think, is vehement disagreement over basic facts of perception, when one group finds something as plain as day and another finds it both invisible and impossible. Rockwell’s paintings, I’ve found, are able to induce a kind of hysterical blindness in many viewers, who can’t or won’t see what is staring them in the face.Read More: http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/314405.html a