Everyone has been a child once, even some of the worst criminals of our time. In the art project Innocent Evil, criminals such as Anders Behring Breivik, Mary Bell, and Saddam Hussein have been portrayed as children in a collection of fascinating bead artworks, created for Mums magazine and exclusively shown during Grolsch Block Party in Stockholm this evening.
The project Innocent Evil consists of a collection of interviews and bead artworks, initiated by Mums magazine’s editor in chief Petter Wallenberg together with art teacher Maria Ljung. The fact that the portraits have been made by children is somewhat disconcerting, but it also opens up for an interesting debate about childhood, innocence and evil. Today the images will be on view during Grolsch Block Party in Stockholm. We asked Petter Wallenberg to share his thoughts on the project.
– The new issue of Mums is all about children, Petter says. It’s an art happening in its entirety and I wanted to do something on kids and youth that you wouldn’t really expect. I have always been very fascinated by the concepts of evil and innocence. If you look at a picture of Hitler as a child, will you see it differently when you know that it’s Hitler? I contacted Maria Ljung, who is an art teacher, and she made the project happen together with some of her students who are between eight and eleven years old.
– She showed them pictures of the criminals as children and asked the students to make portraits of them out of beads. They weren’t told that these persons were criminals until the artworks were finished. Then we discussed how they saw their artworks now that they knew who they had depicted. The discussions are included in the exhibition.
How are you supposed to know who’s good and who’s evil?
Was it a difficult project to realize?
– No, not really. Maria already had an ambitious group of students and they were amazing during the process. It was surprising to see how mature these children were and how they were able to reflect on these topics in a very grown-up way. However, the project also generated some questions about whether it was a good idea to expose these children to pictures of serial killers and mass murderers. Maria told me that the children already knew about these people, or at least some of them, but that they never had a discussion about them with a grown-up. These days kids are exposed to so much imagery of violence and crime that’s totally unmonitored. This art project was created under the guidance of an adult who let them share their thoughts and reflections about the topic, which is something that doesn’t happen very often.
How did the children reflect on these images?
– The children’s reactions were surprisingly alike an adult reaction. They had very versatile ways of reflecting on the images and posed some interesting questions like: How are you supposed to know who’s good and who’s evil?
The exhibition Innocent Evil will be exclusively shown during Grolsch Block Party in Stockholm on August 16th and in the next issue of Mums magazine.