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Nazi Milk 1979

Nazi Milk 1979

General Idea, Nazi Milk, 1979

Concept featured in diverse media

Nazi Milk is a cocktail concept that represents the conflicting forces of innocence and evil. It is a prime example of how General Idea explored taboo subjects.

 

Nazi Milk appears in several iterations and media in General Idea’s oeuvre but is always represented through Billy, a young blond man. In photographs, Billy is clad in a crisp white shirt and depicted against a bright-orange background. He raises a large glass of milk to his lips and bears a milk moustache. Looking suggestively at the viewer, Billy exudes conflicting messages. The milk he drinks alludes to health, wholesome values, and nature. His hair and moustache, however, are styled like Hitler’s and he is dressed as a Nazi Youth, indicating Billy’s association with Fascism.

 

Art Canada Institute, General Idea, Test Tube, 1979
Video still from General Idea, Test Tube, 1979, colour video, 28 min., 15 sec., various collections. 
Art Canada Institute, General Idea, General Idea’s Nazi Milk Glass from the Colour Bar Lounge, 1980
General Idea, General Idea’s Nazi Milk Glass from the Colour Bar Lounge, 1980, drinking glass with offset adhesive label in plastic box with gold hot-stamping; box: 15.3 x 10 (diam.) cm, glass: 15 x 9.2 (diam.) cm; various collections, photograph by Thomas E. Moore.

The character of Billy is connected to the larger General Idea project, The 1984 Miss General Idea PavillionNazi Milk was depicted as a product in an infomercial in the General Idea video Test Tube, 1979, which promotes a series of cocktails—each one a political metaphor. The video presents Billy holding a glass of Nazi Milk with a voiceover: “Billy here is all boy. Billy is the right blend.… He relies on a familiar drink with familial flavour. Everywhere boys like Billy are being initiated into the intoxicating drink: Nazi Milk.” In this deadpan manner, Nazi Milk is presented as ubiquitous and familiar, troubling the idea of wholesomeness. The commercial concludes by promoting the Colour Bar Lounge—the bar from The 1984 Miss General Idea Pavillion—with a slightly disturbing call: “Drinks for the whole family at the Colour Bar Lounge.

 

The multiple The Getting into the Spirits Cocktail Book from the 1984 Miss General Idea Pavillion, 1980, repeats the faux-advertising copy of Nazi Milk. Describing the ingredients, it notes: “The ingredients? … Nothing fancy … something found in every home …” The book also elucidates the benefits of the beverage: “It does more than just build strong minds and strong bodies.

 

Nazi Milk was included in the mixed-media installation Colour Bar Lounge, 1979, and was disseminated in forms including a poster, a multiple, and a 1989 digital print on vinyl. It also served as the cover image for FILE Megazine’s “Special Transgressions Issue,” 1979.

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