The Henson controversy has heated up again with the first interview and official statement given by the artist since the whole mess began back in May.
…”If you believe you’ve done nothing wrong, that what you’ve done is right, you can draw a tremendous amount of strength from that. If I’d had misgivings about my work, that would have had a profoundly destabilising effect.”
…Henson doesn’t see this as a Sydney v Melbourne story or even an only-in-Australia story. “I strikes me that beneath the panic and nonsense there was the basic common sense and decency of the vast majority of people. There were people who said to me: this sort of thing is peculiar to Australia, and I tell them of course not. These things can happen in any society, in any part of the world at any time, and they have.”
He adds: “Perhaps we are a little more prone to it as far as the arts are concerned. At times I think Western culture has a tenuous grasp on this continent. It’s like the topsoil, very easily blown away.”
Henson seems to have risen past this controversy, holding tight to his vision and his ideals. He does admit that the choice of image for the publicity may have been a mistake, however, I understand the reasons behind his selection. to Henson this piece was the crown of the exhibition, the most “alive”. From the position of only having viewed a few works from this oeuvre, I can understand his views. this photograph captures something fleeting and real. it’s a magnificent piece and while it may have been a little too out there for most of the public, his decision to use it in the publicity makes sense.
along with Henson’s comments to the press are the first statements from the family of the young female model involved. a lot of the controversy around this exhibition was centered around the concern that the models were incapable of deciding for themselves and that the parents couldn’t decide for them, creating an impasse. I never understood why none of the politicians raising a fuss ever considered the parents and children discussing it and arriving at an educated decision together. that seemed to me to be the best and only resolution. strangely enough this seems to be exactly what the model (referred to in the article as N) and her parents did.
“We talked about how she might feel if her friends, teachers or uncles and aunts saw the pictures,” she says. “We pointed out some of the potential implications of working with Bill (we did talk about the possibility of causing some controversy over the pictures, although not to anything like this extreme). She also tried to imagine how she might feel when she was older, realising that she may feel differently. She had already talked about all of this with her sister and none of it bothered her.”
as an aside, I think every potential nude model – regardless of age – should have a similar conversation with their nearest and dearest. iron out misunderstandings and expectations at the beginning so that you too can stand tall and collected during a national art censorship witch hunt.
the dignity exercised by Henson and N and her family go to prove once again how ridiculous this controversy really was. another example of making assumptions and leaping in blindly without checking facts first.
For my coverage of the Bill Henson controversy click here