Sunday, July 06, 2008

Purity, Innocence and Pornography

In the fifties and early sixties, the first exodus of young Australians set the stage for future generations to travel overseas after graduating from university.

Among them were Clive James, Germain Greer and Richard Neville - all of whom became successful in later life.
I wasn't in that wave of young aussies. But I was in the next - following the hippie trail through south east Asia, the Indian sub-continent, the Middle East and Europe, to end up in "Swinging London".

Why did we leave? For many of us we left to get away from the insularity and parochialism of Australia. I remember when Lady Chatterly's Lover was banned. When the copy of Michelangelo's David had his genitals covered with a fig leaf in Melbourne's Myer department store. And when a story book for sick children was banned because of its title, "Fun in Bed".

Sometimes I meet Aussie Expats who traveled and stayed overseas, mostly in London. Or I read about them in the press. People like Greer and James who remember Australia as it was in the sixties. A waspish country, the land of "the White Australian Policy" - Arthur Calwell saying, "Two Wongs Don't Make a White". New South Wales Premier Robin Askin surrounded by Vietnam protesters, telling his driver to "Run the bastards over".

I've argued with such friends, and shrugged of the remarks of Greer and her like. What would they know of Australia? They've hardly set foot in the place for any length of time for years. Australia has changed...

And it had. But now?

Recently the Prime Minister of Australia, Mr. Kevin Rudd - a man most of has had great hopes for - stepped into the Bill Henson debate. Henson is an Australian photographer of world renown. His art has been exhibited world-wide, including in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Venice Biennale, the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia and the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris.

Many of his works have as their subjects, adolescent girls and boys - "in their states of despair, intoxication and immature ribaldry" (Ashley Crawford, Bulletin).

But Prime Minister Rudd recently publicly condemned the photographer’s work, as "absolutely revolting", after the press took up the story of Henson's May exhibition being canceled following eight individual complaints made to police voicing concerns about an email invitation from the Gallery to a "Private View" that depicted an explicit photographic image of a nude 13-year old girl.

It makes me wonder. Is "wowserism" alive and kicking in Australia?

Rudd appears to be objecting largely on the grounds that the subject are not able to "consent" to their images becoming publicly available. And of course to the nudism. But where is the nudism here? -

Mr Rudd rcently slammed an art magazine's decision to publish this photograph of a six-year-old girl, taken by Australian photographer Polixeni Papapetrou of her daughter Olympia, on its cover.

"A little child cannot answer for themselves about whether they wish to be depicted in this way," Mr Rudd said. "Frankly, I can't stand this stuff."

I just don't get it. The depiction of the child is hardly "nude". How many of us have photographed our children and put the photos, running half naked under the hose on the front lawn, at the beach, being breast-fed? And we've posted them on-line at Flickr, Smugmugs etc.? Did we ask our children's permission? The photos are kinflicks! Surely a parent can consent for their own child. Surely a parent can make public, photos of their kids. Or do we have to analyse them in case some pervert might drool aver them.

No, Mr Rudd, the problem is not with the parents or the photographers - it is with people who see the bad things in the innocent. After all, you have to be pretty sick to see innocent photos of innocent children as pornographic.

You are attacking and condemning the wrong people.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yeah. I was one who 'bugged out' in 1955. There weren't nothing there for me at that time. No money, no family and a job which was going nowhere. Best move I ever made. But, I do get homesick for Sinney and the bush. And some of the blokes I grew up with. Course, most of 'em are dead. Of well, WTF. We make our beds and learn to lie in them.

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