Sunday, 25 May 2008

Morality 33⅓

I must have my finger on the pulse. Or at least Barney Zwartz at the The Age does.

After Wednesday's post we seem to have had a veritable storm of misguided moral outrage.

Sadly, it all goes to prove my point that when morals are considered to be absolute or immutable, then rational argument and action quickly goes out the window.

First we had the condoms-with-Cruisers controversy, then Tania Zaetta's rumoured dalliance with our diggers in Afghanistan.

All this seems to have got the juices flowing for the hyper-conservative set, because on Thursday an exhibition by photographer Bill Henson was shut down by police, on suspicion of child pornography.

It was all happened pretty quickly, so like most people I haven't seen the images myself. However, I agree absolutely with the sentiments expressed in this article by art critic Robert Nelson.

The real tragedy is that a debate worth having . . . where the line between art and pornography lies . . . will not happen.

The decision will be hijacked by those who believe they already know the answer. And we as a society will be expected to toe the dictated line.

Finally, from the (potentially) serious the utterly ridiculous, this story appeared today.

If Bill Henson's experience is anything to go by, then Anne Geddes better watch out. She's next.


Ty said...

To be honest, nappy ads creep me the fuck out! What other product advertising shows people having their asses wiped or caressed lovingly?

most rev on high paul emerson teusner said...

call me one of your crazy moral fundies, but i do believe cultures make a divide between that which is sacred and that which is profane. whether tania zaetta fulfils her wildest uniform fantasies sure is among the profane, and like you i couldn't give two shits about it.

but the naked body of a child to me is among the sacred, that which must be protected. if nothing else, the youth worker in me tells me that no person under 16 can really, truly, give consent. and when it comes to their body, i don't believe even their parents can give consent on their behalf.

if i were bill henson i would have found some really young looking adults and make them look like prepubescent kids for the camera. either that or sought permission from the children AND their parents to shoot photos of the subjects, but then wait until the subjects turn at least 16 and give their own consent for their public display.

oh and all of you are going to hellfire.

Matt said...

I must disagree with you, most reverend Paul.

Henson's images are intended to show the frailty of youth, the uncertainty of burgeoning sexuality, and the fraught change from child to adult. So the purpose of the images is to show exactly what you've said . . . that children are sacred.

This is something we inherently understand and agree on as a society. So why are we so uncomfortable about displaying it in our art?

You raise the issue of consent. But I would ask you . . . consent for what?

The child's experience was, by all accounts, a very positive one. The child was not molested or defiled in any way.

I don't see that the consent given by the child and their family was unwarranted, or should have been ignored.

Do you mean that the child may not be old enough to understand how the images might be viewed (by paedophiles, or more correctly, ephebophiles) and therefore not understand precisely what was being consented to?

I don't buy that argument. Of course there'll be weirdos getting off on the pictures. But that's not a good enough reason not to do it.

You might as well ban Dolly magazine, or for that matter, Barbie magazine. That argument is just as silly as the one that says we shouldn't have naked babies in nappy ads cause it might get the perverts excited.

Art means different things to different people. If you're going to have art, that's a fact you must face.

If we start censoring our art because of how one particular segment of society views it, then we have a serious problem.

paul said...

Hey Matt,

Oh yea ye are but a wise young man.

You've given much worthy question to my argument. Totally get how you disagree. We must talk over beer and arm wrestle for rational superiority. In the meantime I'll consider the issue further.

Love to Kate. Hope she's home safe and sound.