An Analysis Of "Children Are the Victims of Adult Vices," a Sculptural Composition by M. Chemiakin

Thursday, January 30, 2014

In May of 2008, I visited Russia for about a week. In Moscow, we went to see The Moscow Kremlin. To be honest, today I don't remember much about it, nor did I care much about it back then. But what left a huge impression on me was a group of sculptures we saw in a park in Bolotnaya Square, 2000 feet (610 meters) south of the Moscow Kremlin.

The composition is called "Children Are the Victims of Adult Vices," created by Russian artist Mihail Chemiakin. As its description says, it is a 15-figure composition intended by the author to be an allegory of the fight against the global Evil.

Mihail Chemiakin wrote to his future spectators:  

"I created the sculptural composition Children are the victims of adults' vices as a symbol and a call for action to save the living and the future generations. For many years it has been declared and pathetically exclaimed: "Children is our future!" However, it would take volumes to write down all the crimes of the society against children. I, as an artist, call upon you with this work to turn your heads backwards to hear and behold all those sorrows and horrors our children have to suffer nowadays. All sensible and honest people should stop and think before it's too late. Don't be indifferent!"

Below I share my thoughts, interpretations, and pictures of this sculptural composition. All pictures, except for the first two, are taken by me. (Click on a picture if you want to see it bigger.)

Children Are the Victims of Adult Vices

The Children (source).
The whole composition (source).
At the center we see two golden colored children playing, a boy and a girl. Their eyes are covered with a blindfold, and their hands are outstretched towards each other into the unknown. They are unaware that around them there is a semi-circle of huge monsters, which allegorically represent the adult vices. The centerpiece of these creatures is a four-handed monster standing on a pedestal with closed eyes, plugged ears and folded arms, depicting indifference to other vices and potential harm to children. It is noticeable that both creatures, the furthest to the left and the furthest to the right, have wings and hold a very similar pose – this adds to the visual symmetry of the composition.


DRUG ADDICTION
Drug Addiction is an older man dressed like a butler. He is holding a complaisant, suggestive pose and has a syringe in one hand and what seems to be a joint or a dose of some specific drug in the other. Massive wings on his back may represent "getting high," or "flying away from one's problems."

An accommodating, guardian angel-like butler may also symbolize a thought similar to: "Feeling upset? Let me help you. Let me take care of you. I know what will make you feel better...."

Drugs, both recreational (e.g., heroin, nicotine, or cocaine) and psychotropic medications (e.g., Xanax, Valium, or Zoloft) is a quick and addictive way to numb your emotions and/or escape reality for a short period of time.


PROSTITUTION
Prostitution is depicted as an attractive, inviting woman with a frog- or fish-like head. I came up with several interpretations of this, and I'd like to share at least some of them....

Firstly, frogs and fishes are cold-blooded animals – sex without real love and meaningful interpersonal connection deep down feels cold, empty, alienating, and depressing.

Secondly, prostitutes often tend to highlight their physical qualities that others may find attractive: eyes, lips, breasts, legs, etc. Prostitution has big, open eyes, wide, puffy lips, and a some kind of necklace that, per se, inevitably directs attention to one's chest.

Thirdly, there is a religious cult called "The Family International" (formerly "Children of God," "The Family of Love," and "The Family") that used Flirty Fishing (FFing), a form of religious prostitution, and sometimes portrayed it's female members as having fish-like qualities.
Flirty Fishing was a subset of The Family's love bombing activities and involved the use of sexual attraction and intercourse to win converts and favors. Female members were told to be "God's whores" and "hookers for Jesus", and soon after its launch as a method of witnessing, sex was given to complete strangers in combination with a request for a "donation", or for a required fee in line with Escort Servicing (ESing) or freelance ESing. FFing and prostitution was widely used as a way to raise money for the cult and resulted in many of the second generation births (known as "Jesus Babies"). Internal Family records from 1988 indicate that over 223,000 "fish" were loved sexually between 1978 and 1988. (Source)
The group's liberal sexuality and its publication and distribution of writings, photographs and videos advocating and documenting adult-child sexual contact and the sexualization of children have led to numerous reports of child abuse. (Source)
Personally, I don't think prostitution or pornography is immoral if all parties involved are consenting adults, because in such case the trade is a voluntary exchange of value between two self-responsible people, and there is no victim. However, there are many cases where children, teenagers, or confused adults are tricked and manipulated into sex industries or sexually abused in other ways. Moreover, people who get into prostitution or porn are not from the healthiest childhood environments. Most of them, if not all, have been sexually abused as children in one form or another – and/or severely abused in other ways.

Also, we live in a highly sexualized society – this, combined with other things, can be very harmful to children who don't have a really nurturing environment and healthy role models. It may add to one's low self-esteem and confusion, to a false understanding of a human's true worth, to having bad priorities, to a skewed idea of what love and a healthy relationship is, and so on.


THEFT
Theft is a man with a head of a boar or pig. Pigs are often associated with dirtiness, and this word is used as an insult to describe a person who is morally dirty, shady, untrustworthy, or repugnant. Theft is wearing a dress-coat, presumably with an intention to create an illusion of his trustworthiness. The use of clothing – and looks in general – to present a fictitious virtue and arouse a feeling of trust is very common in our society (e.g., politicians, businessmen, salesmen, public speakers, media, etc.).  

Theft is ostentatiously holding a small bag with two fingers of his right hand and has a much bigger sack on his left shoulder. The small bag, combined with the way Theft looks over his right shoulder, may be a distraction which he uses to methodically divert your attention while he gets away with the loot in his sack. He's not facing you; he has his back turned on you – which also may represent dishonesty and avoidance of direct contact and openness.

The way Theft holds the smaller bag with his thin and delicate fingers may also symbolize that this bag is stolen and that he knows how to steal in a silent, shifty, and cunning manner. This bag may also represent a bribe that Theft got from someone or tries so give to somebody else.

Theft may also symbolize mental theft – many children are robbed in various ways out of their innocence, joy, curiosity, playfulness, and vitality.


ALCOHOLISM
Alcoholism is portrayed as a gross, double-chinned, half-naked, and overweighed man, but in many aspects he resembles Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and feast. He even wears what seems to be a laurel wreath, a headband that was popular in classical antiquity.

Alcoholism is holding a huge, antique bottle of alcohol in his left hand and a massive, ornate drinking horn in his right hand. The horn may also represent the cornucopia (horn of plenty) which symbolizes unending food supply.

Alcoholism is sitting on an enormous barrel of alcohol that has a big, smiling, devil-like face on it, which may symbolize festivities that usually involve overeating, alcohol, and other unhealthy activities.

The whole image of Alcoholism reflects the always-popular method of self-medication and disassociation that is drinking alcohol, overeating, and "celebrating."


IGNORANCE
Ignorance is a man with a head of a donkey, or ass. Both words, "donkey" and "ass," are widely used to signify a silly, aggressively stupid, ignorant, uneducated, unreasonable, and irrational person. Ignorance looks like a jester, with a rattle in one hand and a clock in the other. If you look at the last sentence closely, Ignorance "has time" and he "has fun."

The whole image of this creature says, "It's time to have fun; and this is how to have fun!" Or, "Time equals fun, so relax and let's have some harmless fun." Or, "We have all the time in the world; look what I have here!"

Ignorance may represent the ignorance of the uneducated, irrational, short-term-oriented, and zombie-like general population that is absorbed in mainstream media, entertainment, shiny things, and "fun" (i.e., dissociation from reality and from what's really important). He may also symbolize the entertainers and distractors of the world: mainstream media, myriads of products and services that are oriented at people's insecurities, misinformation, manipulation, various content that encourages intellectual numbness and is mentally crippling, and so on.


IRRESPONSIBLE SCIENCE
Irresponsible Science is what seems to be an old, wrinkly person of an unidentified gender. The old age may say that some science and scientists are behind current times.

This creature is wearing a long, monkish robe with a big symbol on their chest and is holding a scroll with pseudo-knowledge on it. This may symbolize religiosity, spirituality, and pseudoscience – all of which is either inconsistent or in direct opposition with science and truth.

Irresponsible Science also has a long hood covering most of their face. This would highly impair one's ability to see, smell, and hear – i.e., several of one's main senses. It may represent the avoidance or inability to receive, process, and accept information and evidence.

Irresponsible Science holds a stick with strings that they are using to manipulate a small, clothed mutant who resembles a human being but has a long lizard-ish tail and two heads of some kind of long-faced animal (perhaps a dog). This may symbolize how irresponsible practice of medicine sometimes leads to manipulation and exploitation of the weaker and to severely negative consequences. For example, the field of psychiatry and Big Pharma: the prescription of psychotropic drugs to children to "cure" them of non-existing diseases. Or the prescription of thalidomide to pregnant women, which lead to birth deformities such as phocomelia (being born without arms or legs) or deformed eyes, hearts, alimentary, and urinary tracts, and blindness and deafness.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, more than 10,000 children in 46 countries were born with deformities such as phocomelia as a consequence of thalidomide use. It is not known exactly how many worldwide victims of the drug there have been, although estimates range from 10,000 to 20,000. Despite the side effects, thalidomide was sold in pharmacies in Canada until 1962; Canada was the last country to end sales of the drug. (Source)
It may also represent a broader and widely common mental harm and manipulation: teaching children lies, falsehoods, and inconsistencies. Furthermore, this little creature's heads are looking at the opposite direction of each other. It may be a symbol of a mental detriment, of an intellectual, psychological, and emotional dichotomy: doublethink, Stockholm syndrome, cognitive dissonance, self-doubt, and various inner conflicts.


INDIFFERENCE
As mentioned above, Indifference is at the center of this semi-circle of adult vices. He or she stands on a platform, higher than other creatures. Indifference somewhat resembles the concept of see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil, i.e., the denial of reality.

Indifference is using two of their four arms to cover their ears, and the other two are crossed across their chest. Their eyes are shut, and their mouth is closed. This whole picture says, "I don't want to hear anything, see anything, or say anything – don't talk to me; I just don't care."

Moreover, the vertical dots look like coat buttons that are tightly buttoned up from the very bottom to the very top, which may also metaphorically demonstrate that this creature is mentally very closed off. Furthermore, they have no legs, which may add to the symbolism of this monster being mentally rigid and unmovable.

The fact that Indifference is the centerpiece of, and higher than, all the other creatures shows that indifference is the worst and fundamentally the most harmful of these vices. The first step to change is always awareness and clarity.


PROPAGANDA OF VIOLENCE
Propaganda Of Violence is a man who, as some other creatures, is dressed nicely. I've already talked about the possible meaning of that, but this one is also wearing a huge cylinder hat that makes him look taller and may demonstrate wealth and social power. His nose is abnormally long, which probably is a reference to the tale about Pinocchio whose nose becomes longer when lying.

Propaganda Of Violence offers a wide variety of weaponry. He also holds a big lantern over a stack of books. It is not visible in my picture, but one of the books actually has "Mein Kampf" written on it.

This creature depicts the harm of domination, nationalism, and imperialism. It also reminds us how popular, widespread, and attractive collectivism, violence, and domination is, both in reality (wars, stealing, gang violence, bullying, domestic violence, sports, etc.) and in fiction (violent movies, TV shows, video games, animation, fairy tales, and so on).

But violence is so attractive to people only because they were abused, dominated, violated, and desensitized to it as children. As adults, they haven't processed what happened to them, so violence looks normal, familiar, and even attractive to them. They lack empathy – for themselves and therefore for others, especially for children.


SADISM
Sadism is a huge, scary, and savage man with a head of a rhinoceros that has a sharp horn above the nose. Around his waist he has a rope that ends in a noose and can be used to hang somebody. He also has a long, sharp knife hanging on the rope.

This creature embodies brute force, violence, torture, and disregard of others' well-being.

It's not the first time that rhinoceros is being used as a symbol of brute force. There is a professional wrestler named Rhyno (or Rhino), whose finishing maneuver involves running at his opponent with high velocity and impact and is called Gore. Also, there is a Spider-Man villain named Rhino, a huge, muscular guy with a horn on his face, who runs at his target head first with brute force.

Metaphorically, Sadism may represent various direct and indirect methods adults use to make children obey and cripple their true-self: their true emotions, desires, preferences, creativity, and uniqueness. All of this leads to numerous mental and physical problems in later life. This goes on since the dawn of humankind and continues from generation to generation.


FOR THOSE WITHOUT MEMORY
For Those Without Memory is represented by a pillory, a torturing device used for punishment by public humiliation and often further physical abuse, sometimes lethal. When in it, the victim is completely helpless because their head and hands are restrained.

On the front of it, there's a scary, devil-like face. This may refer to the fact that people who were put in the pillory were considered guilty, bad, or evil. Also, you can see snakes crawling up the pillory. So if you are put in there, you feel scared, helpless, and humiliated already – but if you see snakes crawling towards your face and you can't move, it's even more terrifying.

This sculpture reflects public humiliation, torture, punishment, and feelings of helplessness, shame, guilt, horror, and pain. As Sadism, For Those Without Memory may signify not only physical but also mental abuse.

For Those Without Memory reminds us the horrors people have done (and are still doing) to each other. It also reminds us how terribly children are treated – both historically and in the present. Moreover, abusers often say that they don't remember their harmful actions. Also, not that rarely victims themselves don't remember the horrific experiences they've endured as children, or they don't understand the significance and effect it had on their lives. Furthermore, people who don't remember these horrors tend to act them out on others and on themselves.


CHILD LABOR
Child Labor is portrayed as a man with a head of a bird. It has a huge, arched, and sharp beak that resembles one of an eagle, vulture, or griffin. This makes him look very rugged and predatory. He, as some other creatures, is wearing a nice dress-coat and holds an inviting pose. He offers you to come to his factory.

Mythologically, griffins are known for guarding treasures and priceless possessions. Child Labor's treasures and possessions are children and the fruits of their labor. You can tell that the factory is designed for children, because it is three times smaller than the monster himself. Also, the door of the factory is slightly open, inviting children to come in, but seeing their handprints on the wall from the inside, you can tell that once you're in, it's not easy to get out.

Child labor is a tricky subject. There are many cases where children are physically, mentally, or economically forced to work for, and used by, adults. However, there are also people who biologically are not fully mature, i.e., they are not 18 or 21 yet, but economically and psychologically they are more self-responsible than most adults. So, if such a person understands what he is doing and wants to offer something for money, I don't think it's fair to deny him this opportunity just because he's not at the age some people decided he has to be to do that. Therefore, I try to look at every instance individually and very carefully, instead of generalizing.

But there's no denial that children are very often used for adults' personal gains. And I'm not just talking about small children working in a shady, underground factory for 15 cents per day; it's very common for parents to force or manipulate children into doing things they don't really want to do and use them as their personal slaves and poison containers.
"For a very long time, ever since men formed societies in which some people bossed others, children have fulfilled this very important function. Every adult parent, however lowly or powerless, had at least some one that he could command, threaten, and punish. No man was so poor, even a slave, that he could not have these few slaves of his own. Today, when most "free" men feel like slaves, having their own homegrown slaves is very satisfying. Many could not do without them." — John Holt, "Escape From Childhood"

POVERTY
Poverty is depicted as an old, sick, wrinkly, and dystrophic woman. She is poorly dressed, barefooted, her breasts are small and droopy, and she is leaning on a huge stick that is taller than her and as thick as her arms. Poverty has one hand reached out and is asking for help.

We all know what a terrible phenomenon poverty is on many levels. As children, we all deserve to have our needs met. Unfortunately, many of us grow up in poverty, deprivation, abandonment, or even in active physical danger. As adults, such people may have difficulties talking care of their basic needs and struggle financially – because nobody really cared about them on a fundamental level when they were children, therefore they didn't learn how to take care of themselves.

Also, many children are taught that their needs are less important than others' or that they don't matter. This leads to low self-esteem, poor boundaries, and stunted mental growth. Some people grow up with a tendency to take care of others first at the cost of their own well-being; and if they don't do that, they feel guilty and ashamed. Therefore they feel obligated to help everyone in need. But remember, helping others is a beautiful act of kindness, not an obligation. Guilt and shame are poor and false motivators.

Other people grow up not caring about others at all, and may become abusers or exploiters themselves. They not only avoid helping others, but exploit and abuse other people – by stealing, lying, manipulating, cheating, using force, etc. – because that's how they were treated when they were children, therefore they, consciously or unconsciously, are acting out their feelings of anger and injustice onto others.

Poverty may also represent mental starvation and destitution that is so common among adults and is very harmful to children. (I've talked a little bit about it already when talking about other vices, therefore I won't repeat myself here.)


WAR
War is portrayed as a creepy humanoid with a thin, long, and robotic neck. He wears a gas mask to protect himself from toxic gasses and pollutants that he himself inflicts onto others. Also, as mentioned above, children are very often used as containers for emotional poison.

The gas mask also hides War's face. This, combined with his generic armor, serves as a uniform that, per se, is used for deindividuation and collectivism (in wars, schools, sports, gangs, nationalism, various institutions, and so on).
Theories of deindividuation propose that it is a psychological state of decreased self-evaluation and decreased evaluation apprehension causing antinormative and disinhibited behavior. Deindividuation theory seeks to provide an explanation for a variety of antinormative collective behavior, such as violent crowds, lynch mobs, etc. Deindividuation theory has also been applied to genocide and been posited as an explanation for antinormative behavior online and in computer-mediated communications. (Source)
Especially disturbing is the fact that War is suggestively holding a bomb with a Mickey Mouse head on top of it. He is presenting the bomb as a toy. This is a part of propaganda of violence, where violence is presented as a playful, fun thing and is used to desensitize people. As mentioned, if a child has already experienced some forms of abuse, hurt, and injustice, this may be very attractive to them emotionally.

War has bird-like feet and huge wings. This, combined with the bomb he's holding, may refer to aerial atomic bombings of Hirosima and Nagasaki; it also applies to numerous drone strikes, military operations, and other attacks on poor countries that happened in the last couple of decades (and are still happening), where many innocent people – including small and unborn children – have been brutally killed.

As Alice Miller and Lloid deMause documented in numerous of their works, the origins of war – and of violence in general – is child abuse. Violence begets violence.
"Hitler, Stalin, Mao and other dictators were exposed to severe physical mistreatment in childhood and refused to face up to the fact later. Instead of seeing and feeling what had happened to them, they avenged themselves vicariously by killing millions of people. And millions of others helped them to do so." – Alice Miller

"Even today, we continue to arrange the daily killing, maiming, molestation and starvation of children through our social, military and economic activities. I would like to summarize here some of the evidence I have found as to why child abuse has been humanity’s most powerful and most successful ritual, why it has been the cause of war and social violence, and why the eradication of child abuse and neglect is the most important social task we face today." – Lloyd deMause

Addendum

I really like this sculptural composition. As you can tell, it gave me a lot of food for thought, and I very much enjoyed writing this article – both from an intellectual and creative standpoint. I hope you, my dear reader, enjoyed reading it, too. If you'll visit Moscow by any chance, I recommend seeing this composition live. If you have seen it already, I'm very curious to hear your thoughts about it, so don't hesitate to leave a comment. If you have any feedback about this or any other of my works, feel free to leave it below, too, or send me a personal message.


-----
If you found this or other articles valuable, please share it with others who may find it valuable. Also, consider supporting my work by donating. Any and all support is highly valued! 

You Might Also Like

5 comments

  1. Great post, thanks for explaining the work, and interesting interpretations.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm visiting Moscow right now! I saw the statue and found your article; extremely interesting and enlightening, thank you. I quite strongly dislike this as a piece of public art, to the point of absurdity, but your comments have helped me find the subtlety in it and to actually appreciate it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you for this article. It was fascinating to read all interpretations you made. I wish I could see it once.

    The statue of prostitution makes me think about the fairytale "the frog princess" which is by the way, a russian fairy tale. The princess is trapped in the body of a frog.

    And for "those without memory" it makes me think of the post traumatic amnesia, as you allready set it out, but with the fact that when you are victim of this symptoms, you feel like you are detained, while your intrusive and flashback thoughts, and nightmares come back to you and harrasses you until you find a way out.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I visited Moscow last year. I did reflect for some time at the sculptural composition. I thank you for clarifying some aspects which I did not see or understand in the composition before. I found it mentally confronting that with Global Evil, Children Are the Victims of Adult Vices. I agree the sculptural composition does give a lot of food for thought. I enjoyed your article, thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks for that post and analysis. It is very powerful piece of art your analysis adds to that. I posted video on my channel with pictures of these figures and added your analysis of it in the description.

    ReplyDelete