May 29, 2008

Probably not

"Mr Turnbull, who owns two of Henson's works, says artistic freedom is one of the things that has made Australia great."
Or maybe not so much.

Convicts probably helped a tad more than artistic freedom.

Not to mention the odd dead explorer of our great brown land.

British imperialist arseholes with an entrepreneurial bent threw a bit of weight behind things.

So did a smattering of French, Irish, Germans, Italians, Greeks, Chinese and so on and so forth.

Most of them not even a teeny bit artistic.

Henson photographs double standard - Abbott


  1. I wondered a bit about that. Maybe Turnbull was just trying to ingratiate himself with his electorate, maybe he was more interested in the long-term - getting the artists to get behind him in a later run for leadership.

    I think a lot of the things I've been reading about this drive me further and further into ambivalence - though generally in favour of artistic freedom you'd have to be blind, or a raving lunatic, or Elizabeth Farrelly not to see that there might be some problem with this.

  2. Have a look at the cartoon in this morning's "Australian " Caz. It's a hoot!

  3. Anonymous10:33 AM

    No post coital ciggies in that cartoon. Cate looks disappointed and Kev looks like he is suffering from performance anxiety.

    Maybe Kev should rush down to the chemist and stock up on Viagra.

  4. Anonymous10:45 AM

    So art has made Australia great. But is Australia great?

    I suppose Australia must be otherwise we would not have The Great Australian Fright; The Great Barrier Thief and so on.

  5. Went to a tiny art exhibition in my little town today. Few of the works deserve to be shown in a gallery though there were some works by a man named Joe Cartwright that had a certain crisp style to them. I can see how some people might mistake Hensen's gall and brutality for edge. As far as I am concerned they have about as much artistic merit as the Abu Ghraib photos.

    Realised that my favourite piece of art, the sculputres of Cupid and Psyche by Antonio Canova, are actually of naked children. They are so embedded in the classical school and free of modern violence and sexual guilt that it never occurred to me to think of them in this way. My understanding is that in those days using children would have been less provocative than using figures with pubic hair, as this would imply some level of sexuality naturally absent from children.

    Seeing Canova's work in the Louvre last year was one of the most moving experiences of my life. I have never seen such tenderness rendered in stone and if I were to find an ideal in art his work would be it. Brutality and lust are simply par for the course; anyone can do it, and, anyone does. Art which expresses love and tenderness is far more difficult and far more rare.

    I have read here and there that we are behaving like a theocracy but this is nonsense: a casual glimpse at (for example) Iranian photography will show you that they are of a much higher standard than Hensen and are more interesting and provocative, despite the harsh censorship laws. I recommend Shadi Ghadirian and Zhara Rhanjbar to begin with.

    Our laws are not onerous and the public interest value in sticking to them is easy to ascertain. I have little sympathy for him. Also, what is with that beard? He clearly has no taste. It is the beard that most gives him away as a dirty old man. He doesn't convince me either of his artistic need to make these photos, or, of societies need to see them.

  6. If Henson's work allegedly challenges our thinking and feeds our souls (as Cate Blanchett tells us is the purpose of art), then it is lost on me.

    Funnily enough, it appears to be lost on everyone else too, since I haven't seen a single defender stump up with a handy-dandy list of top ten reasons why Henson's penchant for photographing naked kiddies feeds our souls, or top ten reasons how his work challenges our thinking, or requires us to dig deep into the recesses of our little minds to uncover social truths of some sort.

    What, in other words, does his art reveal, what does it say? No one has offered answers. That in itself is problematic if people insist on defending this work as "art".

    If one can't speak of the merits of the art, other than to carp: "but it's art, it's art, it's art - because we say so", it's a little unconvincing, even by art community standards. Equally valid, then, for people to say: "but it's porn - because we say so".

    "I can see how some people might mistake Hensen's gall and brutality for edge.

    An easy mistake to make, since Henson has been making it for decades.

    "Brutality and lust are simply par for the course; anyone can do it"


    Too easy.

    "He doesn't convince me either of his artistic need to make these photos, or, of societies need to see them.

    I'm more irked by his life long need to take photo's like this than I am by the photo's themselves.

    The "rumblings" in the art community have been muted for decades, the discomfort with some of Henson's work simmering away, and STILL they won't come out and damn him for being a revolting old perv, against whom parents should be sternly warned. STILL they will not back their own instincts. They sacrifice personal integrity, believing the sacrifice is worthily in support of freedom of artistic expression. An intellectually indefensible and self-deceptive stance, I would have thought.

  7. His work is repetitive but it also has a minimum of artistic value. If I thought it *necessary* to achieve some artistic end I would be more sympathetic, but there is nothing of that kind at stake here. I can enjoy his work on its own terms but there is not enough of value in it to justify his insolent disregard for the law and use/abuse of children. He could achieve the same (minimal) effect without doing so.

    The bleakness of his work suggest to me guilt and misery, which is hardly a healthy or libertarian attitude to sexuality. More than any other kind of art this art needs the censor in order to justify itself. Just looking at it oppression is more necessary to its essential being than sensuality.

  8. Bleak and misery never go out of fashion. The supply from the arts is unstoppable and the public are never quenched.

    Then everyone gets all prissy and sniffy when fluff and pap coming out of Hollywood makes billions, and they wonder why.

    A more interesting and genuinely contentious arts debate has just erupted with the threat of no government funding for artistic mediums that depict smoking. This could affect plays, film, television, paintings, sculpture, anything at all.

    My quick point: if we want to rid the world of undesirable behaviors, one means being to remove real-life behaviors from the arts, we would logically have to ban the depiction of crime, for example - all crime and violence. Bang goes the entire film and television industry!

    Oh, and fat people, ban fat people so as to prevent obesity and over eating.

    And people with bad teeth. People should attend the dentist regularly and not have bad teeth. Only people with good teeth should be shown in art.

    Bad haircuts and bad fashion should also be banned, as they are offensive and an affront to human aesthetic standards.

    See, with a few small steps, we can abolish the arts entirely.

  9. My thoughts on smoking is that we ought make tobacco companies pay the funeral and medical expenses of smoking-related death and illness. If you want to make money through killing people you should pay for the privilege. It might make you think twice to put that on your balance sheet - or, perhaps, it wont.

    Beyond that I don't feel the need to micro-manage other people's lives or oppress the arts - smoking can have all kinds of genuine artistic purposes. There is a tendency in some art and music to use people's addictions as a selling point, augmenting them and giving emotion or significance to them which they don't in fact have (I'm thinking of bands like Oasis, or even our own Tex Perkins) - but hey, that's your funeral. If it gives you momentary pleasure, you've got what you paid for.

  10. Peter Garrett is a pathetic Arts Minister. His spiel the other month about why we need less "introspective" films and more big budget *national* Australian films was nauseating.

    God, I don't think I ever even liked Midnight Oil.

  11. Speaking of addictions, I left out the obvious art obsessions - illicit drug use, but also the licit, which gets a good whirl from time to time, particularly in telly and film.

    So, "House" should be banned, as the main character is an addict!

    The endless irony of the gov't policing one of the few truly addictive licit drugs continues to amaze me.

    There's no sensible argument - no, really there isn't! - when you look around at everything else that they let slip through without a whimper.