The Institution of Pathological & Unnecessary Violence (And Our Inability To Change)
All human societies are well acquainted with unnecessary violence — but can we change this? Are the conditions under which humans live such that unnecessary violence is an integral feature of our human nature? At what level (e.g. individual, societal, national) do changes need to take place to rectify our fatal human flaw of pathological violence?
DISCLAIMER: The following artworks feature violence and sexual content.
Man is an aggressive animal.
Thousands of years of history and civilization have only transformed this primordial aggression by giving it different names and forms: religious wars, racial tensions, social injustices, inequalities between rich and poor, etc. Human civilization, after all, is a long sequence of violence, with conflicts that seem, at times, impossible to resolve.
In modern human society, violence has become an institution (unlike the violence of the animal world which is motivated solely by survival instinct) used to justify the will to overwhelm others. Man has invented a thousand ways to express an aggression that is generally not motivated by hunger (and when it is, it can be traced back to social and ethnic inequalities that do nothing but fuel violence of all kinds). If a lion kills to eat, a man kills for a million different reasons that have nothing to do with his survival (except in exceptional cases and in particular geographical and social contexts).
The following five artworks focus on that “unnecessary” violence, violence that replaces dialogue and peaceful coexistence among humans. The first kind of unnecessary violence is war, motivated by man’s desire to possess something that belongs to his fellow man: I kill you to have what is yours. Unnecessary violence is violence between races; races united and equal in natural human evolution but divided and different by the thirst for power and the will to overcome. Unnecessary violence is that which rich men exert over poor men, instilling frustration and the desire for revenge in the latter. Finally, unnecessary violence is directed against children. In the latter case it is a real “rape” of innocence and a cowardly way to plant in the little victim the seed of future violence that the violated child will in turn want to use on his fellow human beings.
Another theme present in my art, and closely related to violence, is sex. Many people will not agree with me: How can we talk about sexuality when there are kids in the paintings? I do not consider my paintings to be literal representations, especially when dealing with delicate subject matter. Rather, I lean towards a surreal representation of the themes that I tackle.
In these artworks, it is not real sex that is represented but a completely symbolic and dreamlike sexuality. Of course, one can think that the figures in my paintings have suffered sexual abuse and that with their violence, they somehow want to take revenge on society. However, this is a reductive reading, even if legitimate.
The truth is that violence and sexual instinct are probably the two primary tendencies in the human being. Violence and sex are often morbidly linked, in ways that often become pathological. Instead, I represent a completely imaginary and symbolic child sexuality.
Let’s not forget that my characters are not really children but pre-adolescents; therefore, they live in that phase in which childhood gives way to adulthood. But the adult is not yet an adult, and the person lives in a strange limbo where the two sexes can mix. The discovery of eroticism can be complicated and it can reserve surprises. One should not judge too quickly to see a naked boy. Beauty is universal, perversion is in the eye of the beholder, not in the work of art or the artist because he sublimates certain concepts and elevates them to the state of creative dream.
In my art, the themes of violence and sex are often there precisely for this. It is as if my artworks are bound by the thread that binds human affairs, often tragic and sad events. Violence takes the form of racism, one of the most bestial and inhuman forms (L’école de la violence/The School Of Violence). But the violence is also that of children, the family tensions of which children are witnesses and victims (Le cadeau des anneaux/The Gift Of The Rings, Querelle de famille/Family Quarrel). Racist humiliation is another form of violence that I clearly and provocatively represent in my artwork, Le majordome obligeant/The Helpful Butler. We also have social injustice, often linked to racism, with countries that enrich themselves by humiliating and exploiting poorer people. In this case we speak of the spoiled societies of the “First World,” the dominant Western one, in contrast with the societies dominated and exploited as prostitutes of the so-called “Third World” (“Les doutes du garçon gâté/The Doubts Of The Spoiled Boy).”
L’école de la violence
The School of Violence
Querelle de famille
Le cadeau des anneaux
The Gift of the Rings
Les doutes du garçon gâté
The Doubts of the Spoiled Boy
Le majordome obligeant
The Helpful Butler
For me, being an artist comes from a deep-rooted necessity — it is a natural way to transform your emotions, fears, and desires into a concrete object like a painting. It is the representation of an idea, using a language made up of images, much of it channeled directly from my subconscious, with little in the way of filters. I have been making art since I was a child and it has always been my favorite way to spend my time, to be alone and to be able to visit my inner world.
Since arriving in Paris, I’ve started a new series of artworks representing pre-adolescent boys — an age when the games and innocence of childhood give way to adult thoughts and concerns. That phase when boys turn into men, between the ages of 10 and 14, is a stage when sexuality is still not fully expressed and when gender is still fairly fluid. My characters are androgynous precisely because I want to represent that sexual duality.
Massimiliano Esposito (AKA Maximilian) was born in Milan, Italy, on December 17, 1969. He started painting as a child and despite his art school training, has maintained an instinctive approach to his work, letting his subconscious dictate his subject matter. The recurring figure of a pre-adolescent child, neither male nor female, lends a coherence to this free-form universe. Since moving to Paris, France, in 2012, his work has focused on that unripe phase of human existence when gender is still undefined and sexuality has yet to be expressed. The melancholy and reflective characters he portrays are experiencing the often difficult and painful transition from childhood games and innocence to the first upsets of adolescence and adulthood.