Monday, July 7, 2008

Australian Art Attack


A sense of shameless squeamishness is gripping the Australian government with regard to the substantiation of nudity and childhood as subjects of art. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has shown enormous inflexibility about the depiction of children in artistically executed photographs. Last May 8, he ordered the closure of Bill Henson's photo exhibit after complaints were raised over the e-mail invitation which included the nude image of a 13 year old girl. Several other pieces were seized to determine violations of Australia's obscenity and Child protection laws, but the charges were dropped. Bill Henson, a renowned and accomplished artist, cancelled the exhibit.

This case sparked an inflamed nationwide debate in Australia. International movie star Cate Blanchett defended Henson, citing the risk to Australia's cultural reputation, the wrong signal it sends towards building a creative Australia, and the impact that the closure of the exhibit has on the index of social freedom in the country. She argued that Henson's work is not child pornography and has been affirmed by respected curators and critics worldwide. But PM Rudd expressed being sickened by these creations which he described as "revolting".

The controversy does not stop here. Yesterday, the Art Monthly Australia reignited the debate on pornography and censorship by publishing a nude photo of a 6-year old child on its front cover, to protest the closure of the exhibit and to"restore some dignity to the debate". It seems art supporters and artists are doing what Kevin Rudd has described...revolting.


Depictions of child nudity appear in works of art in different cultures and historical periods. During the Italian Renaissance, nudity was featured in art especially those with Christian themes. Cherubs were also painted nude and were called putto, as with Jesus Christ as a baby. But PM Rudd's counter argument that a little child cannot fully discern being depicted naked , and is therefore abused, is a classic censorship reasoning. It is based on the belief that children have limited rights, child development and cognitive abilities are not mature enough, and that parental rights and responsibilities should be supported by libraries. Arguments against point to the right to learn, the right of parents to raise their kids as they see fit without interference, that parents ought to oversee the child's development - not libraries, and that children are underestimated, and are more capable than adults give them credit for.

The adamant stance of Kevin Rudd, who said he was acting as a parent, is bewildering. The exhibit was by private invitation, from collections by a famous and respected artist who has not been accused of child molestation. Is the Prime Minister afraid that the exhibit might arouse the prurient interests of pedophiles in Australia? Is he cautious about keeping the secret of several education ministers and deputy ministers who have pending child abuse cases in schools, and who are in fact harassing the whistle blowers rather than the predators? How many of these pedophiles have been sentenced? How many more cases pending? How many teacher whistle blowers lives have been ruined by persecution from these higher ups? How many more cases are not being reported?

Prime Minister Rudd is misdirected. The problem is not in the art or the artists' depiction. Neither is the problem with the children used as subjects of art. The problem is that there are those who are blind to art and who can only salivate at the images with their sinister and pernicious minds. Kevin Rudd said " I'm passionate about children having innocence in their childhood". If his words match his passion, then he should prosecute those who willfully take this innocence away wantonly, to the fullest extent of the law. Not the artists who depict the beauty and splendor of innocence, but the pedophiles who ravage and devour the spirit and soul of this essence found only in the purity of childhood.

Haaarrrrwwwwk...Twoooooooph...Ting!

19 comments:

Jenaisle said...

If adult nudity is censored by many, then more so with children.

Nakedness should not be seen as something "dirty", but as mentioned in your article, some malicious people could very well make use of it as a means to achieve their evil ends.

Kim said...

hello Durano
another excellent and thought provoking post and as usual I will give my opinion the best way I can and that is by putting my feet in the 'shoes' of that little girl on the latest art cover...
if my parents had encouraged or coerced me to pose in that manner for an artist or photographer I would have very little respect for them...

I watched that particular girl interviewed last night on TV and I'm afraid she is the perfect example of her parents' influence and exploitation....
I felt very sad for her :(
she spoke like she was an adult but with none of the wisdom or maturity that comes with being an adult...
goodness I was asked to pose nude at art school when I was an art student and I found the idea quite repugnant..and I was 19 !!
I was old enough to say no but these children don't have that option!!
I believe there is a line to be drawn when it comes to children and nudity...and I don't regard myself as a prude...and being an artist...I would never have dreamt of using my own children as "models" or anyone elses !!
how can we possibly know how these children feel...
as adults we should be able to make the decisions when it comes to the young and the innocent..
of course pedophiles are going to view these images in an ugly way and of course there are people who will argue that these photos are art..but IMO... the issue here is that these children are being abused and in the name of "art"...

Jenaisle said...

Hello Durano, I finally acknowledge the award..nakakahiya naman sa iyo, baka sabihin mo hindi ko ma appreciate.

Here's the link:
http://gewgawwritings.blogspot.com/2008/07/arte-y-pico-award.html

Thanks for the trust and confidence in me.

Cheers!

Jenaisle said...

That should read- "ACKNOWLEDGED".

I have an old keypad, they have a mind of their own...(grins)

All the best.

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Jenaisle,

Works of art have always been controversial, especially nudity. But even during the Renaissance, it was perfectly acceptable even to those with Christian themes.

Those who see malice in an artistically done painting are those who were born clothed. :-)

But I suppose controversies will always surface when the subject of children are depicted. :-) --Durano, done!

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Again Jenaisle,

I guessed as much about your keyboard. I couldn't imagine you missing a past tense I think the second time around, while posting a comment. :-)

In my haste, this happens to me too.

As for the Award, you deserve it for your well conceptualized story with its political and social conflicts. And, for your very good writing abilities. :-) --Durano, done!

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hello Kim,

I'm sorry to hear about that girl. Is she the one on the magazine cover or the 13 year old in Henson's photos?

I will concede that there is a difference between a painting and a photograph with regard to the limits of what is artistic.Also, that the cognitive abilities of children vary even as early as age 5. Some may be totally unknowing but may dislike posing yet cannot express this; while others may be knowing and willing. I am perhaps one of those with "advanced :-)cognitive development" where this is concerned. I remember when I was 5 years old and in kindergarten, that I had a huge crush on a classmate whose full name I can still recall today.

I also remember the feeling I had when I saw a male teacher touch a classmate when he was putting on his trousers in the boy's comfort room, and I knew it was wrong.I reported him to the principal. I am very sensitive to these things. And, I hated my brother for pulling down my trousers in the yard when I took a bath in the rain as our neighbors were also present. I was 5 at the time, knew what I felt and expressed it. These do not have anything to do with art, just my feelings and expressing them as I see fit.

But the chances may be greater for the kids being exploited, wittingly or unwittingly - so its safer to exclude them - that's what you're saying. Besides, it could give art a bad reputation.
You have a very valid point, and an argument based on personal experience. I cannot argue with that. :-)

The only thing I'll add is that I appeared in the musical "Hair" when I was in High School, and I agreed to a long naked sequence towards the end of the show. Of course there were about 20 other naked people with me, but I was 16 at the time. My mom fainted when she saw it. :-) --Durano, done!

Kim said...

lol Durano...each to their own...your poor Mum.... you should have prepared her :)
and of course 16 is an age where you are old enough to make your own decisions..
the girl that was interviewed was the little girl on the cover of the art magazine that you have mentioned in your post..

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hello Kim,

At 16, I sure was old enough to make those decisions, but my dad said I didn't know what I was getting myself into. :-)

It was okay with my mom after some time, she just made me promise not to shock her again. LOL!

I caught a piece of that interview with the little girl now a teen-ager on the net. You're right, she was so immature and I agree with you, she was exploited by her own parents. With parents like those, who needs predators eh?

So it's better to get the kids out of this nudity in art thing - it would be a safer path than continue arguing for artistic purposes since there is no guarantee that exploitation isn't taking place. :-) --Durano, done!

The Fitness Diva said...

Some people will try to see porn in anything. I think THEY have the problem, and need to figure out why innocent things trigger such reactions and feelings in them.
Anne Geddes has been doing all types of pictorials of babies, every which a way. Although innocent, I'm sure there's someone out there who managed to be up in arms just because some of the babies were "nude". Go figure!

Hey, Durano, what happened to your Mama Mia post? It completely disappeared! lol

The Fitness Diva said...

wow! CRAZY! It came back! I scrolled all through your lead page minutes before posting that last and it (the Mama Mia post) was gone. Some type of magic trick by Google? who knows? :)

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Fitness Diva,

Well, there could be a load of difference with babies coming out naked. Kids who are between 6 to 14 years of age could be exploited, even by their own parents.

I guess to be safe, nudity in childhood should not be made the subject in art, or, if ever, done only with very artistic expression, nothing naked. Photography that portrays nudity in children could be very dangerous to the child.

By the way, Diva, you're right! My posts have been disappearing. As a matter of fact, the last two days I posted 2 articles and I can't find them anywhere! According to Google, I could be a victim of theft or duplication. I don't know if I have to stop or pause posting for a while. :-) --Durano, done!

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