Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Don't Look Now
I'm not a fan of Bill Henson's photography. However, I am a fan of freedom of expression, intrinsic to which is the freedom for others to express ideas (and images) that might make me uncomfortable or even repel me. Nothing Henson has created is remotely in that category. Last week, Australian police, acting on a complaint from an activist representing some 'Christian, family values' organisation, removed images from an exhibition of Henson's work at a reputable Sydney gallery. The police deemed these to be pornographic depictions of children. The public prosecutor is now considering laying charges against the man whom The Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom, refers to as "one of the very few indisputably great contemporary Australian artists - a photographer of astonishing talent..."Having experienced public censorship on a small scale at last year's Art Melbourne, I am at once sympathetic towards Henson and appalled by the embarrassment this causes all Australian artists. As Shane Danielsen observes, in a blog published today on the The Guardian web site, "Australia has a long and unfortunate history of book- and film-banning, and a deep-rooted mistrust of intellectualism in general and aesthetic experimentation in particular. This is merely the latest installment in a long, painful struggle to grow up, to think and act like adults, in an adult world. Clearly, there is some way yet to go".