Sunday 6 July 2008

Art or Bust?

Now I know this is an emotive subject.
Did you follow the carry on recently that enraged everyone, on both sides of the argument, when it came to the ultimate question: Is it art or is it porn?
In retaliation, the July issue of Art Monthly Australia deliberately makes a statement: Art can take many forms.
Nudity and children can and should be viewed as art.
The editor of Art Monthly is angered by the way in which artists and their work was treated when photographer Bill Henson's photographs were removed from a Sydney art gallery in May. He's put a 6 year old girl on the cover.
I believe that porn, and art for that matter, is in the eye of the beholder.
Art Monthly is part funded by a government grant. They receive $50,000 the Federal-funded Council for the Arts.
The NSW Ministry for the Arts is listed inside the cover as a sponsor and partner. So what's all the drama about? On the cover is naked six-year-old girl Julie, on the cover.
NewsLtd and SkyTVNews blanked out the girl.
The ABC gave a bit more disclosure.
The magazine editor has said he did this "in protest at the hysteria over similar images by photographer Bill Henson".
There's also some other photos of children posing naked in the July issue, but you'll need to splash out around $10 for the issue from your nearest newsagent, which I suspect will be a big seller.

"I chose the [cover] picture of the young girl in the hope of restoring some dignity to the debate and to validate nudity and childhood as subjects for art," editor Maurice O'Riordan says. "Maybe this is bold, but I don't see the need to give in to that sort of hysteria or the prospect of complaint," he says.

Following the reaction to Henson's photos that were removed from Sydney's Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery by Police last month, he says he couldn't really understand the furore.

Henson was not charged and the photos were returned for display.

The photographer, of the latest image, and mother of the child portrayed, says that we need to be clever enough to distinguish art from other types of images, "otherwise we live in danger of eradicating any image of childhood in this culture for future generations to see," Ms Papapetrou said.

NSW Premier Iemma says that the images are distasteful, exploitative of children. "[They're] a cheap, sick stunt at the expense of a young child."

Bravehearts want all naked children banned from appearing in art, and Prime Minister Rudd isn't impressed either. "I can't stand this stuff."

Actually, the real problem here is how we interpret children and nudity in images, that is presented as art. It has little to do with protecting us from pedophiles like Dennis Ferguson. Immea thinks we've now reached a sad point where some people think naked kids can boost their sales and get them a headline.

Now, before you get your nappies in a knot, I'll declare I don't have children, but that doesn't allow me not to contribute to this debate. I also fully appreciate that those mums and dads out there may view this differently. However, you can view artists work and read something into anything, if you really want to.

With the renewed debate last week in the Cairns Post about our local By Law whereby females can go topless around the lagoon pool, there was little reaction this time, compared to when it was first mooted. I mean, try and police such a thing!

We have a million visitors to Cairns every year, and some of the European ones are rather used to stripping off in public.

Last year I blogged about this and showed that Queensland still has some of the most out of date attitudes to nudity, especially in the form of a clothing optional beach. Kind of odd in the sunshine state, and one that markets to the world about the outdoor life of beaches, and the wonderful outdoors.

And these two subject are connected. How we feel about nudity, impacts on how we feel about what it means to us.

Photos like Henson’s and those on the cover of this month's Art Monthly, are not damaging to anyone. The reaction to them is. It's always narrow-minded right-wing nutters that want to censor and 'protect' us all for our own good.

Well, I'm no perve. Although I won't be rushing out to grab a copy of the magazine, I still believe it's perfectly okay to publish such images.
Even though serial killer Ted Bundy said he chopped up 30 plus women because of pornography, there were no supporting studies that collaborated his claim. I don't believe that the crimes that Dennis Ferguson committed, as abhorrent as they were, are influenced by the portrayal of such art works. His predetermination for such unimaginable violence towards the young goes far deeper than spotting a nudie photo in an art gallery.
It's time we looked at the adults who easily blame an artist for causing such behaviour in weirdoes.
There is a clear boundary of course. Those 80 Australians found with child porn on the computer in April, along with around 3000 around the globe, need to be dealt with. Circulating such images does perpetuate deviate behaviour.
Even one of my favourite British comedy actors, Chris Langham was nabbed with photos and downloaded movies of kids. In his defense he said he was researching the character for Help, which currently is screening Friday nights on ABC. However it didn't stack up in court. By the way, have a look out for Langham's The Thick of It, which should make it to our screens soon, or go to the Pirate Bay and grab the Bit Torrent!
I think it's often that reactions to art like this that actually perpetuate and fuel the whole taboo subject of nudity. These self-righteous groups always seem to equate nude with being rude. Well, it's not of course. Children that grow up in healthy and happy families without clothes respect and celebrate nudity. They are not ashamed of the naked body.
The moral of the story is to watch what your kids are exposed to. In more ways than one.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Do you usually employ your blog to exhibit the fact that you have little to no engagement with left theory and to parrot liberal bourgeois myths about pornography?
Your senseless attitude to media with not the slightest regard for gender and hegemony makes your hysterical whinge about the Right ironic at best.