Art or Pornography?

artgallery.jpgOn the 22nd of May this year, the opening night of artist Bill Henson’s 2007-2008 exhibition at the Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, police swooped and the exhibition was canceled. The action came after Hetty Johnston, a child protection campaigner, lodged a complaint about the exhibition with the New South Wales police.

The police action was based on concern over several photographs of a naked 13 year old girl.

Since then many people have voiced their opinions on whether the images are art or pornography.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd condemned the images saying, “I find them absolutely revolting, and whatever the artistic view of the merits of that sort of stuff – frankly I don’t think there are any – just allow kids to be kids.”

Where do we draw the line between what is appropriate and what isn’t? Art is all about pushing the boundaries but can the boundaries be pushed too far? Were they pushed too far in having an adult male photographing a naked 13 year old girl?

The girl involved and her parents had given Henson their consent and were willingly involved in the photo shoot. Does that make it right? Does that make it OK to put the resulting images on display in a public gallery? Many are saying yes, many others disagree.

There have been cries of censorship and some have accused those who agree with the police action as being wowsers who don’t understand art.

What do you think?

I need to be honest and say that no matter what the artistic merit of the finished product, I find it disturbing that producing the images involved a naked 13 year old girl being directed into poses by an adult male who was taking photos of her. I’m not suggesting that Bill Henson is a pedophile or that he took the photos for anything other than artistic reasons; I just feel that what happened is an inappropriate interaction.

My regular Wednesday morning guest on 98.5 Sonshine FM is Ross Clifford who is the Principal of Morling College in New South Wales and current President of the Baptist Union of Australia. Each week we chat about a range of issues relating to spirituality and belief.

Today we looked at where we draw the line in such situations and whether we have the right to intervene and say that a line has been crossed.

Click the play button on the audio player at the bottom of this post to listen to our discussion.

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