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onsdag den 17. juli 2013

Katastrofer og død for børn i legeværelset

Jonathan Hobin: The Twins

Den Canadiske kunstner Jonathan Hobin lavede i år 2011 en kontroversiel serie billeder. Projektet "In the Playroom" viser børn, som genskaber en række historiske tragedier og katastrofer, hovedsagelig med legetøj og andet inventar fra legeværelset. Det er jo meget tydeligt at det første billede viser hvordan World Trade Center terrorangrebet kan bearbejdes på børns vilkår. Leg og dramatisering.

Smukke og gennemarbejdede scener. Død og ødelæggelse. Tortur, død og selvmord. De voksnes verden. Sådan leger små "uskyldige" børn, selv om de ikke altid er så grundige som når Jonathan Hobin hjalp dem med at gøre det rigtig krast.

Jonathan Hobin: A Boo Grave
Tortur i Abu Ghraib fangelejren

Do the kids understand the scenes they’re portraying?

Sometimes the kids just get it. Like the 9/11 picture. Even though they are three or four years old, they saw the twin towers and said, “I’ll hold the airplane, this is where the plane hit the building.” The mother was stunned. These symbols have worked their way into our subconscious. They are so ingrained in our culture, and they’re instantly recognizable. On the other hand, one of the new images is about acid attacks. With those kids, you’d say, “You’re fighting. To hurt that person you pour something that will sting on them.” You talk to them in terms they’re going to understand. And they understand it’s one person hurting another person—that’s the big picture. To start talking about specifics, like bringing in culture, religion... things like that, I think that’s just too big for them to handle. They get the broad strokes. I’m sure it makes for some very interesting conversations on the way home from the photo shoot.

Jonathan Hobin: Got him
Osama bin Laden blev dræbt

What are you trying to communicate with this project?

It is a commentary... on what it means now that we are moving into this new era of constant media. We are no longer just consuming media, we are also generating it. We have to be careful. Also, a lot of my work focuses on the darker aspects of childhood. I am trying to break down the notion that childhood is a time of innocence. Most people generally accept this vague idea of a happy childhood while having horrific stories from that time in their lives. I want to challenge the habit of remembering childhood with rose-colored glasses.

Jonathan Hobin: 39 lashes
Tammy Faye Messner døde af kræft

What kind of feedback have you been getting from the kids in these photos?

For the most part they just have a lot of fun. They are given permission to do what they are often scolded for doing—acting as crazy as they want. The funny thing is, kids play games where they kill each other all the time. Whenever a kid plays with a water pistol they’re pretending to kill someone. It’s something we see constantly. I’m directly referencing where kids might be learning to do those things and that makes people very uncomfortable.

Jonathan Hobin: Seal Heart
Canadisk jagt på baby sæler

It seems to me that the photos are viewed through an American news media lens. You’re Canadian—the closest any of the images come to a Canadian story is the seal clubbing. Did you choose to focus mostly on American media content?

It’s interesting that you say “American lens,” but I think you could also say that it’s a Canadian commentary on the American media being forcefed to us. American media in particular is creating sensationalized imagery in news stories. The way that they give us the news almost plays out like a movie trailer, as if the news story is fiction. So they take something like the Natalee Holloway story and they’re putting it together and creating the narrative so it has these elements where you have the villain, the victim, and maybe an exotic location. It’s like they’re looking at the news story, checking all the boxes that could easily be a made-for-TV movie, and they’re presenting those stories back to us. There is very much a blurry line about what is entertainment and what is news. I think it’s more a commentary on that.

Jonathan Hobin: Holy smoke
Vietnamesisk munk Thich Quang Duc brændte sig i 1963

It's a contentious collection of images. What have been the reactions against the series?

I have had people say I should be killed or that I am a child sex predator. People track me down and call me at home. In my own mind I thought the project would be at the very least interesting and at best thought provoking. I thought some people may be uncomfortable, but some of the reactions are so extreme it is shocking. On the other end, I have had mostly an extremely positive reaction. I got a letter from a mother of a boy with autism who said thank you for expressing that childhood is in fact truly painful.

Jonathan Hobin: Boxing day
Sumatra Jordskælv og tsunami 2004

What do the parents think, generally?

I have never photographed a kid without having a clear dialogue with the parents about what the intention is and what I expect the images to be. Some people seem to think that these parents are making money off this in some way, or that they’re fame-seekers. I have yet to really encounter a stage mom. I don’t know if that’s an American anomaly... I’m not sure. I feel like maybe that’s a stereotype and those things aren’t necessarily a factor in Canada. Most of these parents, they’re well educated, they get the arguments, and they think the photos portray a valid point that they want to participate in.

There was one circumstance with the JonBenet Ramsey photograph where the girl is, essentially, imitating a child murder victim after a sexual attack. We were very cautious in moving forward with that one. The girl was unfazed, but the mother was clearly concerned and clearly cautious about moving forward. But I think any healthy parent would be very cautious with something like that.

Jonathan Hobin: American idol
Barnestjerne JonBenét Ramsey myrdet.

Was there any event you deemed too dark to recreate with children?

In my opinion, if it is reflected in the media and we are seeing it already it's open game. As for how it is represented in my photographs, I think there is room to go too far, but not really with the subject matter. If we see it, then children see it.

Jonathan Hobin: The Saints
Orkanen Katrina gav oversvømmelser af New Orleans

Do you think that the photos are shocking?

No, I don’t. I’ve been shocked at how strongly people have reacted to it. I’ve had some interesting responses, like I’ve had people send me gifts, I’ve had people write hate mail to me or send death threats. I’m pretty close to it and so it’s hard for me to judge. I’m just doing what I’m doing.

Jonathan Hobin: White nights
Masseselvmord i religiøs kult i Jonestown


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