Wednesday, January 13, 2010

2 Years On: The Bill Henson Debacle

Hey Everyone!

 It will be going onto two years since the Bill Henson debacle - the first controversial form of art censorship to cause a stir in Australian society in a long time. I'd thought I'd bring it up to celebrate, even though it happened two years ago, the ongoing source of controversy it is within Australian society until now (read this article if you want read the Nudes in Henson Tour). The article was posted today and is about how Henson's controversial work will be displayed at the local art gallery in Albury, a rural border town on the Victorian and New South Wales' border. Here are some mixed responses to the article:
One whinged:
Nudity in art!! That trend has been creeping in over the past 3000 years and must be stomped on now. Having recently visited the NGV, I was appalled to find many of the so called "masters" purposefully displaying human body parts which no-one should be exposed to. Obviously children don't know what the human body looks like and should not until 15 years of age. 
 And another one critically said:
So where are the boundaries between Child Pornography and Art? Its not about age of admission to this exhiaition,or nudity in Art, but the age of the subjects he uses. I will boycott this. 
And another full of praise said:
There is a fairly definite line between pornography and art. It's called context. This is art and I'm sure the models and parents we're completely aware of exactly what they were getting into. Although I completely understand the other side of the debate with all of the numerous stories of child abuse, sex offenders and the like, who wouldn't be worried about their children?
What do you guys think? Do you agree or disagree with the statements said? 

For you who don't know or those that need a refresher about Bill Henson's controversy - i'll recount the story for you:

Back in May 2003, famous or at least well-known Australian contemporary photographer (and therefore artist), Bill Henson (or maybe his publicist) emailed a tonne of e-invites to people about the opening night of a new exhibition of his which included photographs of nude pubescents, particularly photographs of a nude 13 year old girl. On the eve of the opening (May 22) following eight separate complaints by the public, police shut down Henson's exhibition at his supporting gallery Roslyn Oxley9 at the artsy inner city Sydney suburb of Paddington.

The e-invite had reached a few people in the media (as well as child protection advocates) who criticised Henson's exhibition calling it a form of child pornography sparking a heated nation-wide debate and criticism from the public, the media and even the PM Kevin Rudd himself who called the photographs "absolutely revolting".

Furthermore, some of Henson's work upon the closure of the exhibition was taken into police possession and the police were intent on charging Henson and his supporting art gallery with the publishing of indecent material as well as child pornography. The charges were dropped by the NSW courts and police in June, 2008 and the photographs were given back to Henson with a PG rating and approval to exhibit from Federal Office of Film and Literature Classification. However, nation-wide people were debating what should be the limits and morality of art? Was Henson's work amoral in any way? What should constitue art? etc. 

My personal opinion is that Henson's work did not need to be censored. Glancing from the photographs of the works (that were censored) in a book (The Henson Case by David Marr ) that explored the whole debacle, the pictures were not smutty or constituted in any shape or form anything erotic or pervey in any way. The children (or teenagers) are not exploited in any way, and the way Hensen has constructed the photographs makes them abstract, poetic and conceptual - according to his wiki page; "Henson presents "adolescents in their states of despair, intoxication and immature ribaldry" and that his photographs were "moments of transition and metamorphosis are important in everyone's lives" - I could not agree more with these statements. I'm not particularly fond of his work - it does not appeal to me in anyway and I honestly think that it is rather dull photography as it is too dark but I can say his work does exploit his subjects but I guess it's a manner of opinion.

If people want to interpret something as exploitative and demeaning, they're entitled to do it ; however, they have to understand Henson's work is purely for artistic purposes just like Michaelango's David or Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon was and above all, people need to take into account the intent of artist which is to make humans understand the world and even life.

If you would like to view some of Hensen's work you can have a look here and decide for yourself.

So, that's all have to say. What do you guys think about Hensen's work? Do you think it exploits pubescents or is it purely art?
Peace out. Make Art Not War.


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