Why are we so afraid of our kids?

I’m confused.

On one hand, we have people creating a huge furor over Bill Henson’s photographic depiction of adolescents as “pornography” and claims that it amounts to material that will encourage and satiate pedophile activity, yet on another hand we live in a society where teenagers are looked upon with suspicion and disdain.

For the record, Bill Henson is a highly-respected artist. His images display a deep sensitivity of the human condition, specifically during one’s adolescent years.

Personally, I believe his work is of high artistic merit, however I concede that I am bias and have an artistic bent. Also I am against censorship, as I fail to see why there should be a “board of annointed personnel” that dictate what the rest of society is allowed to see.

David Marr recently described Peter Garrett as “piss weak” in his response to the controversy surrounding Bill Henson’s work and was seen as purely “falling into line” with our “Christian” PM’s view that the works were “offensive”. This is despite the fact that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had only seen five photographs of Henson’s work.

As Minister for the Arts, I would have expected more from Peter Garrett, yet once again he is proving himself to be “piss weak” just as he has on environmental issues.

At what point to we ask ourselves – “if you are the Minister For The Arts, and The Environment, at what point to you begin to measure your success or failure in pursuing the best interests of these portfolio’s, or are you purely the office-holder for explaining why you haven’t performed?


Art or Porn?

Art or Porn?

Norman Lindsay:  Art or Porn?

33 Responses

  1. May I draw your attention to this new post…

  2. Art or Porn?

    Nothing wrong with either IMHO. Fuck the (selectively) moral majority.

  3. Another no brainer from the past – and I deliberately misquote:

    “…leave MY kids alone…”

  4. It certainly can be argued that it’s all in the eye of the beholder, for example, nudie-rudie photos of baby on a bear skin rug.

    However, I would suggest that pics such as above have a definite sexual connotation.

    It’s very very tricky but I’ll have a try anyway. As a critique, the young naked boy is approaching a sleeping girl-child whose dress is pulled up above thigh level. Note also that the young boy is staring intently at X marks the spot.

    I suppose a ‘test’ is: close your eyes and it’s Nicole and Hugh posing for this same scene. Is it sexual? Answer of course: it is. Should it be permitted that children (even with parental consent) be portrayed as sexually enticing?

    Which gets us back to the baby on the bear skin rug and the cherubbim with their little dingle dangles on display. The difference is ‘cute’ compared with titilating.

    EDITOR REB: I agree it’s sexual, but is it pornographic?

  5. Hello Editor Reb.

    Does a sexual representation of children equate with pornography? My personal feeling is that the answer is yes. However this is up to society to decide.

    I believe that people of all ages from babies to the very elderly can be artistically portrayed [neked] minus the sexual element (as has already been done).

  6. As an uncle, I like not much better than a freshly bathed toddler niece or nephew running to me in their glory for a good old fashioned post bath cuddle. There’s a freshness and a purity to it that cures me of much of my cynicism.

    However, the laws governing a society in some instances need to be drawn such that they protect the vulnerable from the predatory. To be effective, these laws must on occasion be drawn with the lowest common denominator in mind. I don’t believe, whatever your “noble” intentions, that one segment of the community can excuse themselves from compliance with these laws.

    The piece above is certainly erotic, and if the subjects are children (and I believe that they are) then despite its beauty and artistic quality, it crosses the line.

    I don’t understand Henson’s apparent fixation with his subject matter. I don’t get why he sees this particular battle as one that is so necessary to fight. The war between censorship and freedom of expression can be far more effectively fought on more worthwhile grounds. With so much to appreciate about children that can be depicted artistically without their sexuality being the subject, I’ve really got to question whether Henson is not more of a threat than he presents himself as.

  7. if the subjects are children (and I believe that they are)” [My emphasis]

    Now that’s interesting. After reading one of Min’s comments above I was going question the implication that they are children in that photo without knowing the history of it.

    I think they could just as easily be in their 20s or 30s.

    I think the new laws floated yesterday by the NSW govt show the ridiculous situation we are moving into – 20 years for possessing a photo depicting child porn whereas ” A “callous and self-centred” Melbourne naturopath has been sentenced to 16 years’ jail for the sexual assault of 12 patients over almost 20 years.”


  8. I see your point Sans. IF THE SUBJECTS ARE CHILDREN…

    As a reverse scenario, what if the people portrayed were consenting adults? Would it still be pornography? Ans: No.

    However, if it was adults who were in the above pic, neither would it still be ‘art’.

    Traa daa: pic sexually explicit with Nicole and Hugh equals a promo for the latest pic, yet the same scene with children is ‘art’?????

    One cannot have it both ways.

  9. Personally I don’t see Henson’s pics (the ones they’ve shown in various media) as art because they are dark and creepy (not creepy because of the age of the subjects just unpleasant which I do believe people have said is his aim.)

    I do really believe that obscenity and its relatives are in the eyes of the beholder as you said above re the cliched bear rug photos. Where do we stop with censorship though? Next it will be Kmart & Target catalogues which probably excite a weirdo or three.

    Now I’ll have to check my bookcases to see if I have any Ancient Greek or Roman, Caravaggio, Vatican art books depicting naked children …

  10. … and burn them!

    (Forgot the closing phrase!)

  11. Min:

    “As a reverse scenario, what if the people portrayed were consenting adults? Would it still be pornography? Ans: No.”

    That’s what I don’t understand about your argument. What is it about the perceived age of the subjects that makes it pornographic?

    If we assume, and I think that we can reasonably do so, that pornograpahy is designed for the sexual gratification of the viewer.

    Therefore while the image may have what looks to me like teenagers in an erotic pose, it doesn’t necessarily mean the viewer is going to get his or her “rocks off” by looking at the picture.

    Firstly, there is no genitalia exposed, and secondly there is no sexual act taking place.

    I think Henson’s work challenges our perception of young adults and serves to highlight the discomfort and difficulty that we, as adults, have in coming to terms with the fact that teenagers can and do have sex.

  12. To illustrate the point, I have added another image. This time a painting by Norman Lindsay.

    To me this is ‘closer’ to pornography than the Henson image, however I suspect others will have different views…!

  13. There’s even a hint of beastiality going on in the Norman Lindsay work…!

    I’m appauled and disgusted!!

  14. It doesn’t work in the context the wowsers are using reb as the LIndsay piece is a painting.

    Why Henson was singled out is he used photographs, even if they are highly stylised and look more like a painting than a photograph.

    It is this difference between painting and sculpture to photograph that allows the wowsers to work around the conflict that the vatican has many pictures and sculptures of naked children, and Jesus is depicted naked as a child and pre-teen in some art works.

  15. It’s interesting isn’t it Adrian –

    The “medium” now determines whether the image is pornographic or not.

    A photograph, or equivalent digitally created “realistic” image while not overtly sexually explicit is considered by some to be more pornographic, than another image (the painting) which is far more sexually explicit.

    Where does that leave Anime – the Japanese “porn?”

  16. True and manga (anime is usually animation) is considered art by many, and I’ll admit some of it is stunningly beautiful and artistic in rendering.

    As an aside I have to laugh at the tiny little obscuration patch (square or pixellation) they put on the public manga to get around the Japanese censorship laws, it absolutely does nothing to hide what is being sexually represented, except to ruin the picture, which maybe the censor’s aim. If you ever want to see what a joke censorship can be then this is a good example.

  17. stuntreb | October 28, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    “As a reverse scenario, what if the people portrayed were consenting adults? Would it still be pornography? Ans: No.”

    That’s what I don’t understand about your argument. What is it about the perceived age of the subjects that makes it pornographic?

    And this is what has been very challenging about your argument.

    Just me, but I think that it is all about an age of consent. Don’t you think?

    I would suggest that those in Lindsay’s art were all consenting adults compared with children.

  18. But Min,

    Henson’s models did provide consent, and he also obtained consent from the parents.

    The parents were also present during the photo shoot.

    You mention Lindsay’s art has “consenting” adults, however there’s a very strange looking girl riding a leopard who also seems to be having her tit touched up by a buffalo.

    Also, Lindsay’s art has full frontal nudity whereas Henson’s does not….

  19. “Age of consent”

    An interesting concept. Today I’ve been reading up on the AOC in various countries around the world – in some it’s 12 and others 21. For some things such as homosexuality there is no AOC and it’s punishable by death. Other sex acts carry terms of natural life imprisonment.

    Like a persons religion, it all depends on the country where you’re born. In California, Spain and other places you can marry your same-sex partner. In Iran the both of you would be hanged and slowly strangle to death on mobile cranes in public squares.

    I don’t like censorship because I don’t like where it can lead. Look at how stupid it can be: read Lady Chatterley’s Lover today and find the places that caused it’s banning for so long – chances are you won’t be able to. Yet look at the legal battles and damage to reputations that the banning caused.

    I’m starting to ramble …

    REB: Not that there’s anything wrong with rambling…

  20. I suspect that Norman Lindsay wasn’t using actual models for much of his artwork. I doubt that there are humans with some of the impressive physical attributes that he portrayed.

    More seriously, it is simply inappropriate to have naked prepubescent children photographed in provocative poses. Children should not be used for the commercialisation through controversy for any artist, whether is intentional titillation or not.

    I’m not in favour of actual censorship, I think more vigilante style opposition is better.

  21. “I’m not in favour of actual censorship, I think more vigilante style opposition is better”

    Exactly. Why complain when you can just kill them indiscriminantly.

  22. I cant argue with the passion of the comments above.

    I found this subject hard to step back from to look at with out emotion. But when i did i fell back to the same thing time and time again. I got nothing about the childrens feelings what came to was:
    new market

    Anyhow that dosnt make me right and i also dont know much about art.

  23. stuntreb – that seems a little extreme. It ought not be ‘indiscriminate’.

  24. Hexx,

    To me this is not art, there is no message or statement there at all in this stuff.

    I’ve seen some very good photographic art and I remember one image that touched me considerably…it was a naked vietnamese child running and crying, all her clothes were burnt off and she was covered in burns from napalm.

    There are many, many examples that demonstrate that a photo is artistic…the question is would you invest in these photos?

  25. No, If i were to invest i would stick to something i know a lot more about.

    That girl must be proud to have such a photo. The only thing which might be art that i liked and stuck with for years was M.C esher(think thats how you spell it). There was another guy that combined animals to make one creature.

  26. Well scaper many would and Henson’s photographic art has been in huge demand for a long time.

    These photographs convey exactly what Henson meant them to convey, and the emotion, message and statements are there. Read up on what they’re about. This is what Henson said about it in 2001:

    Henson explained the images as an artistic exploration of that exclusive vulnerability and awkwardness between childhood and adulthood. ‘That thing of having one foot in the world of childhood and one foot in the adult world produces a certain uneasiness, a certain disposition, which I find really interesting,’ he said in a 2001 documentary on his work.

    That you see nothing in them but do in other photos, yet others like me see the message Henson is protraying in these pictures but probably wouldn’t in the stuff you see messages shows that it is art, because art has always done that. It has always been in the eye of the beholder.

  27. That comment came out rude the way i typed it.
    ment to read:
    the only thing i have looked at which may be considered as art is…

  28. This beholder reckons it is shit and I would not hang it on my walls…would you???

  29. No scaper I wouldn’t even if I could afford to. But I don’t consider them shit nor his other work either, I actually finding them disturbingly beautiful and subliminally emotional.

    Then again what would we know. I was an Ord (rawbone) on HMAS Melbourne (aircraft carrier) in 1974 when it bought Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles from America back to Australia (it had two guards on it full time and I did some guard stints on the crate). I didn’t have a clue what it was all about and when I finally got to see the actually painting I thought what a heap of utter crap and it would be worth nothing in a few years.

    Bought for US$2 million (AU$1.3 million) at the time, now estimated to be worth between US$100 to $150 million (AU$155 to $233 million).

    So what the hell do we know about this stuff?

  30. Blue Poles really IS worth nothing – as said before “eye of the beholder” and the the way the “painter” (artist? BS!) has been promoted by toffee nosed, wide eyed, untalented, BS spouting arty crafty, intelektools…”art” has just become another industry promoted via extremism…not much different to the financial sector of our society…most of the “high” art is just promotion – self or otherwise…its manipulation…

    …modern music is a classical (luv the pun) example…

    …apart from the lyrics that commonly use foul language, don’t really have any meaning – either obvious or deeper – they are often tuneless or a makeup of electronics and studio – and all end up sounding the same – ordinary people have stopped humming, singing or whistling “popular” songs because they are tuneless…they can’t…

    If Henson is so good why doesn’t he photograph the transition between adults in their prime and stepping into later adult life…and “…leave MY kids alone…all in all its justa ‘nuvver brick in the wawl…”

    I certainly wouldn’t be happy to find him prowling around my grandkids’ schools looking for subject matter…without parental consent…

    …and parental consent isn’t always the answer…when a parent can kill innocent children for personal gain. There has to be standards for society to survive – you might call it censorship – for pity’s sake allow children to grow up before taking advantage of them for any gain – money, art, professional, political, personal (barras), intellectual, legal…

    …children are precious and need to be protected not exploited…

    Adrian, I went to see Blue Poles (when my son marched out of from Army Apprentices School, we “called” into Canberra) all I can say is – its big, bloody – big…but blue? mmmm?…just another clever con job…

  31. You Philistine, TB. 😉

  32. Thanks, SB, and an honest one at that! 😉

    It’s me ‘owd fashund Yorkshire blud!

    Did ya see Michael Parkinson on Enough Rope this week, explains it all!

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: