Nazi Milk represents the conflicting forces of innocence and evil and is a prime example of how General Idea (active 1969–1994) 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, Nazi Milk, 1979
General Idea, Nazi Milk, 1979
Concept featured in diverse media

The character of Billy is connected to the larger General Idea project, The 1984 Miss General Idea Pavillion. Nazi 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. 


This Spotlight is excerpted from General Idea: Life & Work by Sarah E.K. Smith.

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