Thursday, May 29, 2008
Bill Henson? Doesn't he voice The Muppets?
The recent blanket coverage on the topic of Bill Henson’s art is both frustratingly hysterical,* and often boring. I was weary of the debate by Monday lunch, mainly because there’s really no answer to any of the questions being posed.
However, I get the feeling that the right questions are not being asked.
I went to an NGV Bill Henson exhibition about 4 years ago. On the one hand, I could appreciate his eerie brilliance. On the other hand, I was made to feel uneasy by this same brilliance, particularly because I was accompanied by a woman who was herself a victim of child sexual abuse. She too appreciated his craft, but left the exhibition clearly on edge and in tears.
I decided that Bill Henson was a talented creep.
The public debate is centred around the question of ‘art’ and ‘porn’. But I have a better question to ask, though it’s one which, like all the questions being asked, we'll never get an answer to. Based on the (often incorrect) Buddhist axiom that the ‘morality of an act is in its intention’, I ask, does Bill Henson get his rocks off on the thought of sexually engaging with underage girls? Or to put it more bluntly, is he a paedophile? Not ‘do you think he is a paedo?’, ‘IS he one?’ is my unanswerable question.
I don’t think the images are ‘porn’, by any definition. They are ‘art’ – debate over (in my head). .
But does this ‘art’ come at the expense of underage girls’ dignity, development, respect and legal rights? If so, then I think the ‘anti-Henson’ brigade have an argument to make.
Cate Blanchett may call it ‘censorship’, but if just one model turns out to be the victim of Henson’s sexual predations, then censor away, I say.
In the meantime, surely they could just put an ‘R’ rating on his exhibitions instead of confiscating the works? Confiscating his art is like demolishing a bank so it won’t get robbed.
If only Henson could use his talents for good instead of (alleged) evil.
* Oxford comma!
Posted by Perseus at 11:28 AM