For those not in the know, Bill Henson is a photographer. A very talented photographer who, while he takes remarkable landscapes, also has a predilection for pubescent girls. (Google images is your friend for that one.)
Bolta covered this story here, here, and here.
Tim Blair commented on it here and here.
On the other side of the cultural divide, we have Alison Croggan's take on the witch hunt that is decrying Henson for a child pornographer.
Personally, I see the photos of young teenage girls without clothing and under evocative lighting as more porn than art, and while others may disagree and call it Art, that's not at issue.
What is at issue for me is that in this day and age, when so many bleat about the sexualisation of children (and yes, I'm most definitely one of them), there seems to be some sort of blind spot in the minds of those who just don't get that photographing nude 12 year olds might send a bit of a mixed message to those children we're supposed to be protecting.
However, the wyrm is tyrning, it appears to me, with Jill Singer coming out against the photographs in this morning's paper.
I tend to disagree with a lot of what Jill has to say, but I do agree with this piece, and find the confirmation that you don't speak out against the Black Skivvy Brigade or else.
We both know Bill Henson, she better than I, and we also know the art world. It is a place where you tread very, very carefully.
Everyone is your best mate if you praise their work, your instant enemy if you proffer the slightest criticism.
And here was a photograph about to be exhibited by a man we like, of an image we both recoiled from instantly.
There are many women who tend to keep quiet about any discomfort they might feel about Bill Henson's work. No one has a problem with his ruins, or trees of course, it's just the young girls.
Another woman, senior in the arts industry here, tells me she has been ambivalent about Bill Henson's imagery of young girls for years, but has remained silent for fear of being lumped in with the religious Right.
I guess that makes me of the religious Right, but your religion shouldn't matter a toss in this instance. and I figured I was one anyway.
It's a shame that women who are supposedly in control of their destinies feel cowed by their environs enough to not speak their minds and hence enable further exploitation of children.
Yes, I'm aware that I'm using emotionally-charged language, but so what? The fact remains that a minor child (presumably with parental consent) has had nude photographs of themselves taken and exhibited around the world and money has changed hands.
That is not a business agreement between equals, and regardless of how informed she may think she is, a girl on the brink of womanhood is not of legal majority and should not be treated as such.
She is a child.
But enough of that before I start some serious ranting.
What really has made my day in all of this is that according to one blog, it's all...... wait for it....
Kevin Rudd's fault!
(Okay, not exactly; I've just been dying to say that)
Bringing it back on track, over at the Sydney Arts Journo blog (h/t Alison), Kevni is given a severe smack on the wrist for coming out and agreeing with the majority of the population.
Of course, the fact that most of the population don't go* to galleries means that their opinion shouldn't count, so Kevni should have supported Bill.
My favourite comment I'll paste in full, because it demonstrates beautifully that some people really can't handle a bit of disagreement:
Writing anonymously as an advisor to one of Mr Rudd's prized candidates in last year's election, I want to add that on this one, you are wrong Kevin: very, very wrong.
Even your nemesis, John Howard, would not have abused the privileged and time-honored position of the Office of Prime Minister with such a knee-jerk, ego-fuelled, juvenile reaction to the unquestionable reach and INTENTION of Mr Bill Henson's creative pursuit.
Your vilification of him, and the true spirit of Creative Australia will return to haunt you ... just as we cautioned it always would.
While the election was fought on "New Leadership", you have nothing of the nobility, maturity (artistically, culturally or otherwise) that Howard had.You are born of a media age, and this will go down the public record as the first moment in your Prime Ministership, when you didn't read what was written and allowed your ego and sense of altruistic self-aggrandisement to rule your tongue.
Personally? I have always protested that you lack the maturity and compelling ability to read the road map forward to a destination suitable for the achievers in this country ... not the reactionaries. There are hundreds of websites, Google them, that are far worse and far more easily accessible than this exhibition. They are pornographic. This is art. That was and forever will have been Bill Henson's intention.
I am grateful for one thing. The people of Australia have finally seen you for the fallible, popularist Prime Minister they will tire off within months. But those of us with credit for your victory will hang their heads in shame. You have betrayed the true nature of reconcilliation because everyone can now see it for the opportunistic, grand-standing event that it truly was.
How easily your opinion is bought. How demeaning to our values of cultural signficance that is.
I love it when Lefty heads implode. Why this person didn't see Kevni for the hollow man he always was boggles my mind. How dare Kevin actually disagree with what his supporters think?
Dude, Kevni was voted in because the electorate wanted a change, and he campaigned on being just like John HoWARd only younger and fresher.
He also said he had ideas, and one of the few things he did since getting into office was to pull together a circlejerk to try and find them.
The general population tends to be rather conservative at heart, disliking revolutions or revolutionaries (except on tshirts) and especially not being enamoured of blokes taking pictures of little girls.
Kevni is just doing what he's always done - going along with the loudest crowd, and at the moment, for a change it tends to be the average aussie.
By the way, according to an Art Expert, Bill Henson's photos are not pornography.
Well, I never saw that one coming, did anyone else and do I need sarc tags?
*I've been to a few openings, but it's been about 4 years for me. And I no longer have a black skivvy. Sorry.