So Bill Henson... And Censorship In Australia In General

Discussions in Chat


Rebecca Gabrielle Cannon said 10 years ago

As we’re probably all aware, Bill Henson’s photographs of young teens were seized by Australian police last week. The ensuing media debates wage child porn against artistic merit, with I’ve got to admit more points going to artistic merit with

Adult who posed for Henson at 12 without regret

Former head of Albury Regional Art Gallery wanting Henson’s removed works brought back

In a world that lauds the teen model Henson’s critics are hyprocrits

…combined with other significant data relating to the naturalness of girls 12-14 being sexual creatures given the state of their physical development (including, but which I have not seen covered in the media, the fact that girls are maturing earlier, with the average age of a girl’s first period (menarche) dropping over the past two generations).

What I think all the coverage I have witnessed fails to take in to account is how this impacts our already abysmally censored Australian culture.

It could be argued that Australia has the second-highest rate of censorship in the world, second only to China.

To begin with, the following three situations have been extracted from the Wikipedia entry on "Censorship in Australia
:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship_in_Australia

In 2004, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image was responsible for the censorship of Australian female artist’s work which they had actually commissioned. Videoed images of the artist nailing her body to a tree were reduced in quantity and scale for final presentation to the public, against the artist’s consent.

In 2004, Experimenta refused to include the artwork ‘The Empty Show’ in the publicly installed version of the House of Tomorrow exhibition (it remains on the net.art website 18) due to images of illegally stencilled graffiti which depicted Mickey Mouse with drugs. The issue of Mickey Mouse being defamed was considered the risk, not the drugs. This censorship was known only to the organisers and the artists involved, and thus comprised a form of self-censorship.

Other Australian artists have received funding from public funding bodies, only to discover that their works are too controversial to be shown in this country, notably George Gittoes, whose work is still shown freely overseas.

Feel free to add more information regarding your experiences of censorship in Australia.

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I await with great anticipation the outcome of the Henson case. Should his work be found ‘acceptable’ we will hopefully see a maturation of the Australian cultural scene to something which is not ‘conditioned by alarmist media’ (to quote Henson’s response to the seize). If he is charged with obscenity, production of child porn or publication of child porn then we can kiss artistic license goodbye in this country, and possibly many of our best artists and artworks with it.

I’d also like to see a donation fund set up to help with Henson’s legal fees, as this case is going to affect all artists working in Australia. The case against Steve Hise in America being a good example of why this might be necessary.


Rebecca Gabrielle Cannon said 10 years ago

Awesome, we have precedent!

In 95 a WA artist was charged with “indecently recording a child under the age of 13” for taking photo portraits of her children, but after a three year battle she was found innocent! Yay!

As reported in The Australian this morning.