Lee Grant – Photography Blog

Archive for May 26th, 2008

The Art of Hysteria

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The last few days have been busy for the Australian media with the nailing to the wall of reknowned Australian photographer Bill Henson. Henson is quite the doyen of the art world, both here and abroad, though I suspect that this might change with recent public outrage and authorities moving to prosecute both the artist and gallery Roslyn Oxley 9 (who have also apparently received death threats from more gung-ho members of the lynch-mentality public) for exhibiting his latest work which includes nude images of under-age girls.

It’s been interesting to track the user comments on news sites. It’s definitely a divided audience with some people being quite measured and yet others going to great lengths to rant about the quality of the images, to whether or not photography can even be considered art (which poses interesting questions about the relationship between the artful representation of the human body in the photographic medium and what might be considered pornography or even paedophilia); and on to concerns for child welfare and the sexploitation of minors. (Interestingly there was little mention of the Corporate Paedophilia that our children are bombarded with on a daily basis – surely more explicit and offensive than what is under attack here!?)

It’s a tricky debate for reasons that are largely moral (childhood in our culture remains a fraught and often misunderstood construction). Legally, it’ll be interesting to see how the authorities proceed with their prosecution – doubtful given their wobbly platform. It’s also been unfortunate (and frankly disappointing) that our PM felt the need to weigh in on the event, adding more fuel to the already fiery debacle.

As a parent and an artist I’ve tried to weigh up the concerns of both camps and find myself less in no-mans-land than feeling disappointed at the absolute lack of intellectual and even rational thought over the whole affair, particularly from camps who have little to no visual knowledge of Henson’s work or contribution to the artworld. Ultimately I think that the art will prevail, whether or not people agree with it. It’s unfortunate though that the works have been removed by police from the gallery, because out of context (the nudes sit alongside landscapes and architectural studies), they can become something that the artist never intended.

All images courtesy Roslyn Oxley Gallery 9

Written by Lee Grant

May 26, 2008 at 1:48 pm