A Danish-Norwegian artist’s latest project involves her baby dressed up as the “most evil historical figures of the 20th century.” Among the costumes include Hitler, Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein and… Chairman Mao.
In the controversial photo-series “Potency,” Kleivan’s daughter Faustina, then a few months old, depicts such infamous personalities as Joseph Stalin, Benito Mussolini, Saddam Hussein, Ayatollah Khomeini, Chairman Mao, Idi Amin, Augusto Pinochet, Slobodan Milosevic, and Adolf Hitler. The aim is to illustrate just one thing: We all begin life the same. We all have every opportunity ahead of us. To do good, or inexplicable evil…
“You need to be conscious that your actions have consequences that impact on your fellow human beings. The people I let my daughter portray didn’t give a damn about the human cost, the casualties, their thoughts caused,” Kleivan says.
“The responsibility is yours alone. You can’t throw it away – as a parent, as human beings – and say that you just followed orders.”
This isn’t the first time Mao has been depicted as part of a clan of bad, bad men. In Germany, a Doc Morris Pharmaceutical condom ad campaign included a Chairman Mao-shaped sperm alongside Hitler and Osama Bin Laden ones, implying that condom use could potentially prevent the birth of the next global terror.
What I find interesting is that Mao is continually grouped with the rest of the world’s “evilest” dictators – mostly because many of the peoples he repressed still seem to look upon his reign as something necessary for China. Do Chileans have as much respect for Pinochet (doubt it) or Iranians for Ayatollah Khomeini (probably)? And if Mao isn’t the only controversially good/bad character in this gallery, maybe Nina Maria Kleivan’s work should be taken a little further by making us ask what exactly is an evil leader?