We are participating in the exhibition Bright Childhood | Dark Childhood with prints from Last Riot (2007)
Throughout history, the representation of children in visual arts has been a manifestation of certain cultural and political values. Within the pictorial world of the Middle Ages, for example, adequate images of young people can hardly be found. It was not until the development of a wealthy bourgeoisie, in the Age of Enlightenment, that the education of one’s own offspring became more and more important to a broader population.
Before that time, corporal punishment had been considered appropriate for raising children. Then, a non-violent pedagogy became popular. The writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, and the German romantics stroke a new path. It is therefore not surprising that the child became a new and independent motif within arts. The exhibition “Bright Childhood | Dark Childhood” takes this era as a starting point for an investigation of the development of the image of children in fine arts. Biedermeier and Impressionist artists, like Christian Landenberger, Max Liebermann or Theodor Schütz, painted children in an idealized form, surrounded by wonderful landscapes or in idyllic interiors. The persuasive power of images of happy, innocent children can be traced from that time until present-day advertisement being firmly anchored in our consciousness and understanding of education.
Contemporary artists reverse this cliché and put it into new contexts. Young adults in aggressive, brutal scenarios, threatened by dark powers or social dangers are disturbing, because they irritate or even provoke our viewing habits. Through this strategy, artists address sociopolitical or private problems. Artists like AES+F, Karin Brosa, Tracey Moffatt, Robert Matthes or Maria Marshall prompt exhibition visitors to revise their ideas of children.
One important objective of the exhibition at Museum Villa Rot is to question the pedagogical duality: Can we strike a balance between former understandings of children as little tyrants and the contemporary image of the innocent, angel-like child?
Link to exhibition