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In a worrying escalation

By Thumper 2 June 2008 53

In a worrying escalation of the Hensen issue, the Canberra Times is reporting that the Canberra Centre has ordered the removal of an exhibition of students’ life drawings, sparking further concern that art censorship is spiralling out of control.

The seven drawings, created by Dickson College Year 11 and 12 students, were part of an annual exhibition at the centre, celebrating Public Education Week but organisers were ”amazed” when Canberra Centre staff asked them to remove the nude drawings within three hours of displaying them last month.

This took place four days before NSW Police seized Bill Henson’s photographs from a Sydney gallery, inflaming debate over what constituted art.

What next? Community book burning?

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In a worrying escalation
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sepi 8:01 pm 06 Jun 08

The images were declared “mild and justified”
http://www.theage.com.au/national/no-charges-for-henson-20080606-2mnv.html

sepi 7:59 pm 06 Jun 08

Police have investigated the images in question and decided they are not porn, and are in fact PG.

cazjs 8:53 pm 05 Jun 08

Those images owned by the NGA are not the ones in question, Sepi.

sepi 7:59 pm 05 Jun 08

The AFP have decided the images are not porn. Some sense at last.

http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,23816320-5001028,00.html

madocci 12:07 pm 05 Jun 08

One critic relating the images as erotic then later defending the artist’s position doesn’t give any backing the argument against these works of art. I have looked at a lot of Henson’s work and I don’t take anything erotic from it, disturbing yes. Can you advise which exact work you are referring to? My point is that nudity is not erotic; the two don’t go hand in hand. I would propose that the projection of children – not even adolescents yet – in advertising in which they are dressed in clothes which promote eroticism of the human form in adults (e.g. miniskirts / boob tubes) is much more a promotion of paedophilia than a naked form.

In the olden days when women were all covered up and people were titillated by ankles, the removal of the clothes around the ankles actually reduced the stimulation. Thereby and increase in nudity generally (especially in the culture – via art) should have the reverse affect to what Henson’s work is supposed to do (stimulate paedophiles). Something being seen and vocalised as ‘naughty’ or ‘bad’ actually increases the perceived eroticism of it.

I think some types of reaction to these pictures indicates a level of education (particularly in the arts) and exposure to different ways of life. That is why the term ‘redneck’ comes to mind.

The fact that we are at a point in society where the objectification of woman (and to some degree men) and their bodies has led to them only ever being perceived erotically is terribly sad.

Having said that, I think its great to have a debate like this, it opens people’s eyes to other viewpoints. I appreciate and understand the opposing view but whole heartedly disagree. Makes me want to go to the art gallery and look at all the paintings in terms of their ‘erotic’ nature for the time. I might get a glimpse of children with their ankles showing sitting on a bed together from 1910!

Thumper 8:22 am 05 Jun 08

Yeah, statues of Al Grassby.

i’m offended by that…

sepi 8:15 am 05 Jun 08

I just don’t see these images contributing to pedophilia.

I think there are far better targets to go after.

imhotep 11:31 pm 04 Jun 08

excuse the double post, but;

Because this issue seen by many as a beat-up by right wing hack Miranda Devine and the conservative media, it quickly became a battle of:

‘People of culture’ vs. ‘The Great Unwsashed’.

In my view, in their rush to demonstrate their liberal credentials by defending Henson, many people did not take the time to actually have a look at Henson’s work, as demonstrated by several posts above who compare his work to Anne Geddes and naked cherubs on biblical paintings.

Some of Henson’s work shows a predilection for photographing children in an erotic context. Tolerating this because he is an artist does not (to me) indicate a ‘liberal’ society, but a society which will make excuses when it suits.

.

imhotep 11:14 pm 04 Jun 08

madocci

madocci said :

imhotep –
If you want to use an art critic as evidence to your opinion, use their entire argument, not just the part that proves your point.

I was quoting as selectively as you did. What do you want me to, find everything this critic ever said about Henson? In 2005, he did say;

“Henson’s interest in juvenile erotica is not redeemed by the bombast of gloomy sites and leaden skies.
..the good landscape work is discredited when used as a backdrop for rehearsing the lubricious display of nubile or pre-pubescent children.
… Henson’s content nestles uncomfortably between the sinister and the trivial.
He likes to photograph young people either in open erotic transport or as a passive target for the viewer’s lust.

“Henson’s grope in the gloaming has unpleasant moral overtones…”

This was in response to many of the posts above, which claim that Henson’s work contains no erotic overtones, which to me indicates that they have only seen snippets of his work in the media, or that they have a very constrained view of what constitutes erotic content.

imhotep said :

sepi said :

clueless70 10:37 pm 04 Jun 08

What a weasel this Nelson is. Never imagining, perhaps, that his earlier condemnations of Henson could become fuel for police brutality against an artist, he has sought to back-and-fill to a more defensible position.

His weasel’s recourse is to damn by faint praise, with its moralising undertone intact.

The sense of a powerful male presence of the photographer and a disempowered youngster as model has to be faced.
…By someone, identity unspecified. Do not imply, weasel, that any other viewer of Henson’s work has to face moral anxieties that are your problem, not anyone else’s. This view of the ‘disempowered youngster’ dazzled by a ‘powerful male presence’ is your imaginative projection on a scene about the construction of which the viewer knows precisely nothing.

the artistic inquiry that recognises irregular erotic feelings
Oh no, you don’t, weasel. Implication: Henson has or portrays or stimulates irregular erotic feelings. Naked, pubescent young girls are intensely mainstream, erotically speaking. If such subjects were not intensely exciting to the typical person, they would not have caused the hysterical response from Hetty J and ‘Angry of Ashfield’ in the first place. Truly irregular erotic feelings can be safely marginalised and the public remains indifferent to their representation. Henson’s trouble is that he has activated heterosexual Joe’s unconscious fantasy material.

a repressive regime that simply seeks to crush feelings as illegitimate just because they don’t conform to our best moral templates.
That won’t wash either, I’m afraid. Implication: Henson’s work can’t possibly conform to high ethical standards. Demonstrate how, weasel. And even if that could be shown to be true, what hypocrisy to imply that anyone has ‘best moral templates’ with which they may judge Henson or any other artist whose work incorporates nudity. Presumably, these gleaming devices can be distinguished from our ‘personal/everyday/slightly grubby moral templates’, used for mundane matters where fallibility, imperfect information and self-interest actually do affect people.

Individual viewers remain the best people to assess the aesthetic and ethical value of Henson’s exhibited works, and that valuation is of no account to anyone but themselves, since the artwork is a representation, not reality itself. However the option to make that assessment has been abrogated by the police. Nothing Nelson says in his ‘new, improved critique’ of Henson really questions this state of affairs, since he allows all of the underlying hysterical, moralising prejudice behind the police raid to stand unchallenged.

madocci 9:18 pm 04 Jun 08

imhotep – I wish you would do your research more thoroughly. The same art critic has recently written the following in defence of Henson:

“In the past, I’ve been critical of Henson’s work and have noted the parallel between his images and pornography. The sense of a powerful male presence of the photographer and a disempowered youngster as model has to be faced. I find the pictures a bit creepy.

I feel that someone is going to steal up on the girl on my computer and offer her various comforts that will put her even further in a man’s power. So the images could almost be set up for sinister wish-fulfilment, a dream of possessing and controlling an almost nubile child for sexual gratification.

For all that, I defend Henson against censorship. His work is unquestionably art… Henson sits in a lineage from the ephebes of ancient Greece, through Donatello, Caravaggio and Murillo and on to Balthus.

We never know how healthy their motives are; it’s a questionable zone of spirit. But without the artistic inquiry that recognises irregular erotic feelings, we have a culture without curiosity for sexuality, a repressive regime that simply seeks to crush feelings as illegitimate just because they don’t conform to our best moral templates.

This intolerance is unwise and immature…

The most hypocritical criticism of Henson has arisen from righteous folk claiming to speak on behalf of the girls in the photographs. The damage caused by their sanctimony — making them feel ashamed of the images that they’ve let themselves in for — outweighs any damage allegedly caused by the photographs themselves.”
Source: http://www.theage.com.au/news/opinion/creepy-perhaps-but-its-not-porn/2008/05/23/1211183102325.html

If you want to use an art critic as evidence to your opinion, use their entire argument, not just the part that proves your point.

moff 10:21 am 04 Jun 08

Righteyo, I’m not a particular fan of henson’s work, but I am an art fan, so here’s my two cents:

What about Cherubs? They are usually nude and they depict innocence among other things and they can be seen on many paintings in all sorts of institutions, aswell as on advertising. Is the baby on Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ lewd and inappropriate?

Henson’s work isn’t about pornography or paedophilia, to me, it’s more about vulnerability and acceptance.

imhotep 10:16 pm 03 Jun 08

sepi said :

“There is nothing sexual about them – nudity is not always sexual.”

This, excerpted from the Melbourne Age’s art critic Robert Nelson, in 2005.

“Henson’s interest in juvenile erotica is not redeemed by the bombast of gloomy sites and leaden skies.
Unfortunately, the good landscape work is discredited when used as a backdrop for rehearsing the lubricious display of nubile or pre-pubescent children.

… Henson’s content nestles uncomfortably between the sinister and the trivial. He likes to photograph young people either in open erotic transport or as a passive target for the viewer’s lust. He does this with a long lens, where the focal length lets you ogle at the several smooch-kittens from 40 paces. It is an aesthetic of spying, granting you an illicit glimpse, as in all pornographic genres, a teasing sexual spectacle with ocular impunity.

Henson’s grope in the gloaming has unpleasant moral overtones, as when the participants are too young for sex. The film-noir sonority of the prints somehow fails to attenuate the flagrant voyeurism of the vision, a sense of scoring a lascivious flash or finding the most titillating combination of female helplessness and masculine strength.

If the work provided a confessional record of a photographer’s morbid predilections, it would achieve artistic integrity, owning up to the perverse pulse of the prowl, perhaps to express the stalking spirit as compulsive or natural.

The models do their performance so that we think it is natural. The figures are captured in feigned rapture, as in the frivolous fantasies of fashion magazines, where a young woman is paid to look orgasmic and everyone concerned hopes to make a lot of money.

http://www.theage.com.au/…/04/26/1114462034805.html

Another redneck who doesn’t know art when he sees it?

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